MidEast

In First, Texas Divests $72 million from Norwegian Company that Boycotts Israel

The State of Texas has started to divest $72 million worth of stock in a Norwegian company that reportedly boycotts Israel to comply with a 2017 law. The move is the first action taken under the bill, which prohibits state agencies from contracting with companies that boycott Israel.

Two major state pension funds – the Employees Retirement System of Texas and Texas Permanent School Fund — own $68 million and $4 million, respectively, in stock in the Norwegian financial services firm DNB ASA. A spokesperson for the company denied that it supports the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign that advocates for the destruction of Israel.

However, the State of Illinois, which also has an anti-BDS law, lists DNB ASA as a boycotter of Israel. DNB ASA is Norway’s largest financial services company and has also done business with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In May 2017, Texas became the 20th U.S. state to pass a law or executive order banning state business with companies that support boycotts of Israel. Some 26 states, from New York to Texas to Rhode Island to South Carolina – with strong bipartisan support – have so far passed anti-BDS regulations.

Advocates of the measures emphasizes that such legislation does not raise any First Amendment issues because private parties are still free to boycott Israel.

Jacob Millner, who serves as a Senior Policy Analyst for The Israel Project, said that the legal effort to fight discriminatory boycotts of Israel has been successful because “American state legislators and governors, Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as our friends in Europe, all reject the ideology of hate and discrimination that lies at the heart of the BDS movement, which is aimed at the destruction of Israel.”

In March 2019, Texas blacklisted home rental giant Airbnb for its decision to remove listings of rooms and homes for rent in West Bank Jewish towns. The company has since walked back its decision.

[Photo: Iwona Jurkowska / Wikimedia Commons]