The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday passed the first protective measure to empower states fighting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the state of Israel.
The bipartisan “Combating BDS Act of 2016,” introduced by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and co-sponsored by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as an amendment to the State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) spending bill, passed by a majority of 21-9.
The bill declares that state and local governments have the legal power to divest public funds from entities involved in the boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions on the State of Israel (BDS), so long as the designation of such entities is based on “credible information available to the public.” The measure empowers state and local governments to use the power of the purse to fight the global economic warfare targeting Israel and will protect them from potential lawsuits.
Democratic senators Patrick Leahy (VT), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Dick Durbin (IL), Jack Reed (RI), Tom Udall (NM), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Jeff Merkley (OR), Brian Schatz (HA), and Tammy Baldwin (WI) voted against the measure.
To date, eleven states – Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and South Carolina – have passed anti-BDS laws, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order that commands state agencies to divest themselves of companies and organizations who support the BDS movement.
“Today, 21 Senate appropriators joined me to take a strong bipartisan stand against anti-Semitism, and voted to protect Illinois and other states seeking to fight back against the BDS movement’s economic warfare targeting Israel,” Kirk said in a statement.
American Jewish Committee’s CEO David Harris welcomed the legislation as “an important step in the battle against the Israel-haters.”
“While ostensibly aimed at helping Palestinians, the BDS movement in fact seeks to delegitimize and ultimately eliminate Israel. We eagerly look forward to passage of the bill by the full Senate and the House, and the president’s signature that makes it law,” said Harris.
Governor Cuomo, along with Greg Abbott (R-TX), and Dan Malloy (D-CT), were recently named co-chairs of the AJC’s Governors United Against BDS, which aims to commit U.S. governors to fight the BDS movement.
Meanwhile, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced that he has directed the New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund) to review its portfolio for any companies involved in the BDS movement. DiNapoli and the Fund will take appropriate steps to protect investments from any risk posed by companies that are engaged in BDS activities, including restricting or exiting investments.
The fund has $532 million worth of Israeli investments.
“Attempts to harm Israel’s economy can put our investments there at risk,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “Israel remains an attractive place to invest and we look forward to finding new opportunities there. We’re putting companies engaged in BDS activities on notice that there will be consequences if their anti-Israel activities expose our investments to financial harm.”