The Texas Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill on Wednesday barring the state from contracting with businesses that boycott Israel, placing increased pressure on a Dallas-based banking giant to cut ties with an activist group that targets Israel for economic warfare, Benjamin Weinthal reported in The Jerusalem Post.
The International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), which supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel, defends Iran’s nuclear program, and has a chapter in North Korea, maintains an account at Comerica Bank.
The IADL ”excuses the actions of terrorist organizations and denies Israel’s right to defend itself,” said Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith, whose organization testified on behalf of the anti-boycott legislation. Mariaschin asserted that Comerica should cut ties with the group, noting, “Banks have recognized that they should not truck or have business with these types [BDS] of accounts.”
Jan Fermon, a Belgian lawyer and secretary-general of IADL, acknowledged in a letter to the Post earlier this month that his group supports the BDS campaign. “IADL engaged in solidarity with the Palestinian people in a very early stage of its existence because it considers the violations of international law and human rights law… by the Israeli authorities as a major obstacle to a just and lasting peace in the region,” he wrote.
Texas Senate Bill 29, which passed last week by a vote of 24 – 5 with two abstentions, aims to prevent the state from entering into contracts with entities that boycott Israel.
“Israel is a valuable trade partner to Texas and an essential US ally,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Brandon Creighton, stated upon its passage. “I am pleased the Texas Senate has taken a stand against the effort to isolate Israel from the global community.”
The Arkansas House of Representatives passed a similar bill 69 – 3 last week, which was unanimously approved by the state senate earlier in the month. The legislation was sent Friday to the office of Gov. William Hutchinson, who is expected to sign it into law.
Such bills have passed in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, South Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, Florida, Alabama, California, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Iowa. New York governor Andrew Cuomo approved a similar measure by executive order.
Advocates of these measures have emphasized that they do not raise any First Amendment issues, as private parties are still free to protest, boycott, or speak out against Israel in any way. However, states may be obligated to protect taxpayer money from being used to promote or support discrimination based on religion, race, or nationality.
The passage of anti-BDS legislation reflects an understanding that the campaign “is not like the civil rights protests, as its supporters love to claim, but rather more like the anti-Jewish boycotts so common in Europe in the 20th century, and in the Arab world until this day,” Northwestern University law professor Eugene Kontorovich wrote in The Washington Post in 2015.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political party, the Christian Democratic Union, echoed this criticism in December, passing a resolution stating that the party “declares with this motion its disapproval and rejection of every form of BDS activity and condemns these activities as anti-Semitic.”
Many BDS leaders have publicly opposed the two-state solution and affirmed that the movement seeks Israel’s destruction. Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the movement, said in 2014 that Palestinians have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance.” Leading activist As’ad Abu Khalil wrote in 2012 that “Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”
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