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California State Assembly Unanimously Passes Bill Against Israel Boycotts

California’s State Assembly passed legislation to crack down on discriminatory boycotts of Israel by a unanimous 60-0 vote on Tuesday, the Jewish Journal reported. The legislation now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown, who is expected to sign it into law in the coming weeks.

When the bill was originally introduced in April, it specified that the state could not enter into contracts worth more than $100,000 with companies that boycott Israel. The bill that passed stipulates that companies doing business with the state must instead certify that they don’t violate California’s civil rights laws, which prohibit discrimination based on national origin, while targeting a sovereign nation recognized by the United States. Israel is the only such country mentioned by name in the legislation.

“The bottom line is that the state should not subsidize discrimination in any form,” Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), who first put forth the bill, told colleagues while on the Assembly floor on Tuesday.

The bill’s passage was praised by a number groups, including the Israeli-American Coalition for Action, which advocated in favor of the legislation. “We have another tool in our toolbox” to fight against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign, said Shawn Evenhaim, the coalition’s chairman.

“Oftentimes, if not all the time, when there’s an entity boycotting the State of Israel, at the core, it’s anti-Semitism,” said Dean Schramm, Los Angeles chairman of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). The AJC first broached the idea of the bill with Bloom a year ago. Schramm dismissed complaints by proponents of the BDS campaign that the bill might infringe on their right to free speech. “It is a consistent theme of BDS supporters to suggest that any time anything is directed towards them in the form of criticism, that somehow their free speech rights are being chilled,” he said. Advocates of similar anti-BDS measures that have passed in other states have emphasized that they do not pose any First Amendment issues because private parties are still free to boycott Israel, but states may be obligated to avoid promoting or supporting discrimination based on religion, race, or nationality.

Two weeks ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed a law that barred his state’s pension fund from investing in companies that boycott Israel. In June, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order prohibiting the state from doing business with any entity that boycotts Israel. Other states that have passed anti-BDS legislation include IllinoisSouth Carolina, Tennessee, ArizonaGeorgia, Colorado, Florida, and Alabama.

Following passage of the Illinois bill last year, legal expert Eugene Kontorovich said that the measure reflected an understanding that “BDS 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.” Earlier this month, the student body at one of Europe’s oldest universities similarly denounced the BDS campaign as anti-Semitic, saying that it recalls the Nazi-era slogan, “Don’t buy from Jews.”

Foreign investment in Israel has nearly tripled since the BDS campaign was formally launched by Palestinian groups in 2005, hitting a record high of $285.12 billion last year.

Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, outlined at a congressional hearing in April how members of a network that used to fund Hamas have become the driving force behind the BDS campaign in the United States through the group American Muslims for Palestine.

The BDS campaign attempts to delegitimize and isolate Israel in an effort to advance Palestinian interests, and many of its leaders have publicly affirmed that they seek Israel’s destruction. BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti, an opponent of the two-state solution, said in 2014 that Palestinians have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance,” while leading activist As’ad Abu Khalil acknowledged in 2012 that “the real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel.”

[Photo: Aaron Fulkerson / Flickr ]