Article Library / 2016

2016 Annual Assessment

Israel-specific binding legislation

  1. Illinois was the first to enact such legislation as Governor Bruce Rauner signed the bill on July 24, 2015.11 The bill was approved unanimously, and creates a blacklist of companies who boycott Israel, requiring divestment of state pension funds.
  2. Florida’s bill was approved by Governor Rick Scott on March 10, 2016.12 It creates a blacklist of companies boycotting Israel and prohibits public entities from entering state contracts with these on contracts worth USD 1 million or more. It also prohibits state pension funds from investing in such companies. This passed the Florida House 112-2 and the Florida Senate 38-0. Florida also passed a non-binding resolution13 earlier that month.
  3. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed into law this anti-BDS legislation on March 17, 2016,14 after it passed the Arizona House 42-16 and the Senate 23-6. Like Florida, Arizona mandates creating a blacklist of companies and organizations that boycott Israel, and then prohibits state institutions from investing in such bodies. It similarly prohibits entering state contracts with entities that boycott Israel. The bill relates to the general importance of opposing discrimination based on national origins.
  4. Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed the bill into law on March 18, 2016.15 Colorado’s law will require the state’s pension funds to create a blacklist of boycotting entities and divest pension funds from these, as well as prohibit future investments. It passed 54-10. The 10 dissenters were Democrats. We should also note that much of the opposition in Colorado had to do with the politicization of the state’s pension funds, and not specifically related to Israel. This bill is the only Israel-specific one that relates to “Israel’s internationally recognized boundaries” and does not extend to territories beyond the 1967 lines.
  5. Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the bill into law on March 23, 2016,16 which requires state pension funds to divest from companies that boycott, sanction or divest from Israel or businesses that operate in Israel. The Indiana law requires creating a blacklist of such companies and submitting regular reports to the legislative council. This was approved with bi-partisan backing and a 47-3 majority. Indiana had previously passed a non-binding resolution in support of Israel.17
  6. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed the Georgia legislation into law on April 26, 2016.18 It forbids the state from contracting with individuals or companies that boycott Israel, and creates a blacklist of such companies. The bi-partisan bill passed the Senate 41-8 and the House 95-71, perhaps making Georgia the state with the greatest opposition we have yet seen.
  7. Iowa’s anti-BDS legislation was signed into law by Governor Terry Branstad on May 10, 2016.19 It will create a blacklist of businesses in which state institutions would be prohibited from contracting and investing state funds. The bill passed the House 70-24 and the Senate 38-9, and will only be take relevance on future investments.
  8. New York took a slightly different route as Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive anti-BDS order on June 9, 2016,20 that will require state agencies to divest from companies and organizations aligned with the BDS movement. New York is the only state to have taken such action, although two bills are currently in motion, one of which is Israel specific21 and the other binding but as regards all U.S. allies and trading partners,22 both of which are expected to pass in the coming months.
  9. New Jersey’s Senate passed bipartisan legislation on June 28, 2016,23 which Governor Chris Christie signed on August 16, 2016.24 The law will prohibit state pension and annuity funds from being invested in companies that boycott Israel or Israeli businesses. This bill passed the senate unanimously 39-0 and the general assembly 69-3.

Binding, non-Israel Specific Legislation

  1. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed anti-BDS legislation into law on June 4, 2015,25 one of the first states to do so. The legislation is not Israel-specific, rather it bars public entities from contracting with companies that boycott “based on race, color, religion, gender or national origin,” and references companies with whom South Carolina enjoys open trade. The bill, backed by pro-Israel organizations, passed the house 97-1 and the senate 44-0.
  2. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed into law legislation on May 10, 2016,26 prohibiting a public entity in the state from contracting with business and non-profit organizations that engage in boycotts that discriminate based on race, color, religion, gender or national origin, and with countries with whom Alabama enjoys open trade. The bill passed the house 84-5 and the senate 30-0. Earlier this year, in February, Alabama passed a non-binding resolution27 condemning the BDS movement and affirming its support for Israel.
  3. California Governor Jerry Brown signed the “anti-BDS bill”, or Assembly Bill 2844 into law on September 24, 2016.28 This was, after the State Assembly approved an updated anti-discrimination bill (60-0) less than a month before,29 and after a long and complicated legislative process. The legislation will force companies that accept a state government contract over USD 100,000 to verify that they are not in violation of California’s civil rights laws. This bill in its current form is not specific to Israel (although Israel is the only country mentioned specifically) rather reinforces existing regulations in California. It does, however, draw a direct connection between BDS and anti-Semitism, noting “discriminatory actions taken against individuals of the Jewish faith under the pretext of a constitutionally protected boycott… of …Israel.”
  4. Rhode Island’s General Assembly passed (63-4) this anti-discrimination bill on June 16, 2016.30 It is currently in the State Senate and Governor Gina Raimondo is expected to sign it into law. The law would prohibit the state from contracting with companies that engage in boycotts of U.S. allies and those with whom the state enjoys open trade. While the bill itself does not mention Israel, the press statement put out by Rhode Island Rep. Mia Ackerman, one of the bill’s sponsors, makes direct mention of Israel: “One of our greatest trading allies is the state of Israel, the only democratic, non-discriminatory country in the Middle East.” The press statement also mentions that boycotting Israel could harm the state’s economy.

Non-binding anti-BDS resolutions

  1. Tennessee passed a non-binding resolution condemning the BDS movement, the first state to do so, on April 21, 2015.31 Although the legislation does not order Tennessee public institutions to “divest from entities involved in boycotting Israel, it refers to BDS as “one of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state.” This resolution passed 123-1 in the General Assembly and passed the Senate unanimously.
  2. Pennsylvania’s General Assembly32 and Senate33 both passed non-binding anti-BDS resolutions on June 24, 2015,34 with bi-partisan and unanimous support. The Pennsylvania legislature is currently discussing three different binding anti-BDS resolutions (see below).
  3. Virginia’s legislature passed a non-binding anti-BDS resolution on March 9, 2016.35 This passed the House 86-5 with 9 abstentions, and passed the Senate with a voice vote. Virginia is working to pass a binding anti-BDS law36 (see below).

States with Resolutions and Legislation Under Discussion

Currently, states with efforts in earlier stages include: Oklahoma37 (non-binding resolution condemning BDS and reaffirming support for Israel); Ohio38 (binding legislation that would prohibit state contracts with companies that boycott Israel); Massachusetts39 (legislation that would divest pension funds from companies that boycott Israel – although not likely to happen in the coming year); Maryland40 (a non-binding resolution supporting Israel and criticizing the BDS movement, although it might not pass and the end result may be a NY style executive order); and Pennsylvania (see above – three bills introduced – one that would block state funding to academic institutions that boycott Israel, one that would prohibit state contracts with entities that boycott Israel, and one that would divest state pension funds from Israel boycotters”. As mentioned, Pennsylvania and Virginia, which passed non-binding resolutions, are also seeking to pass binding legislation.

Notably, anti-discrimination and anti-BDS bills in Kansas41 and Wisconsin42 (non-binding) failed to pass. These failures, however, seem to be more a result of procedural issues than substantive ones.