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2016 Annual Assessment

(Note1: For the sake of this report, we consulted with the Israel Action Network (IAN) and The Israel Project (TIP) to get a sense of the national-level work on this issue, with Professor Eugene Kontorovich Head of International Law at the Kohelet Policy Forum, and with the JCRC of Indianapolis to get a sense of the state-level efforts. These are in addition to the sources mentioned)

There are, at time of writing, 11 U.S. states that have passed some sort of pro-Israel or anti-BDS legislation, one state (New York) with an executive order, and a number of states that are in various stages of the legislative process. Three more states passed non-Israel specific anti-discrimination laws that, in practice, help block BDS (although defending Israel sits at the heart of these), while one more state’s legislature passed such a law, and is awaiting its respective governor’s signature.

There are essentially four different legislative models in play, with slight differences from state to state:

    1. Binding and punitive legislation that prohibits the state from entering into contracts with companies that boycott Israel or divest from it.
    2. Binding and punitive legislation that divests state pension funds from companies that divest from Israel.
    3. Generic binding and punitive anti-discrimination legislation aimed at those who boycott American allies and trade partners by barring the state from entering into contracts with any entity that boycotts “based on race, color, religion, gender or national origin”.
    4. Non-binding and declarative anti-BDS resolutions that express support for Israel and condemn the BDS movement, without taking concrete action.

We note that some states have combined certain legislative models or have first introduced the non-binding resolution and later the punitive legislation. Many of the Israel-specific legislation efforts refer to Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East and a U.S. ally and trade partner. Many clearly state that BDS seeks to de-legitimize Israel’s existence. Some note that the boycott enterprise leads directly to a “climate of intimidation, fear and violence on campuses throughout America” and helps to spread anti-Semitism, and would be “damaging (to) the cause of peace, justice, equality, democracy and human rights.” Some of the states that have passed generic anti-discrimination legislation specifically mention Israel as a key ally and trade partner, either in the text itself or in the press release announcing the legislation.

Advocates note that it is realistic to expect that anti-BDS or anti-discriminatory legislation will pass in 10 or more states throughout 2017.

Legislative Efforts on the National and International Level

On the federal level, the pro-Israel Combatting BDS Act of 2016 has been introduced in Congress,2 which would support the states’ efforts thus far, and proactively block federal level challenges to them.3 Last year, President Obama signed into law a broader trade bill that included anti-BDS provisions. ,4
Internationally, a number of countries and major cities have come out against BDS: Canada passed an anti-BDS resolution earlier this year,5; the UK is considering banning BDS action against Israel, and France banned discrimination based on national origin back in 2003. ,6 Earlier this year, the city of Paris passed further anti-BDS resolutions. ,7

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