U.S. States, Academies Crack Down on BDS

On March 18th, the Illinois Investment Policy Board blacklisted 11 companies from doing business with the state for allegedly boycotting Israel.The Illinois legislation behind this move, SB 1761, was passed in 2015. It made Illinois the first state in the country to punish companies for boycotting Israeli trade. Now, Illinois is the first state to actually form a list of companies barred from working with the state’s government due to their alleged boycott of Israel.

As the list of the blacklisted companies illustrate, the law even applies to companies who have ceased to conduct business with Israeli companies in the West Bank, but continue to work with Israeli companies within Israel’s 1948 borders. Companies blacklisted by Illinois include G4S, a security giant that recently announced it would sell its Israeli subsidiaries for financial concerns; Karsten Farms, a South African company that stopped working with an Israeli settlement company in 2013, and British retail chain, the Cooperative Group, that stopped trading with companies in Israeli settlements.

Colorado and Florida joined in on passing anti-BDS legislation this month. The states both approved legislation similar to Illinois to block companies thought to be boycotting Israeli trade from doing business with their governments.

On Wednesday, the Virginia House of Delegates decisively passed a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The resolution passed with 85 in favor, 5 against, and nine abstentions.

The Virginia resolution states that the BDS movement “is inherently antithetical and deeply damaging to the causes of peace, justice, equality, democracy, and human rights for all peoples in the Middle East.” It affirms the commitment of members of Virginia to support Israel and oppose “all attempts to economically and politically isolate Israel within the international arena, including promotion of economic, cultural, and academic boycotts, and all efforts to assault the legitimacy of the State of Israel as the sovereign homeland of the Jewish people.”

Palestine Legal has identified 21 states in the United States with legislation to punish or suppress the BDS movement.

In academia, on March 23rd, the University of California’s Board of Regents unanimously adopted a statement described in mainstream media as “condemning anti-Semitism.” The statement also explicitly condemns “anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism.” In January the working group that developed the statement proposed the declaration should read “Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at University of California.” However, following criticism of censorship, it was changed to anti-Semitic anti-Zionism.

Palestine Legal has pointed out that the UC’s chief lawyer confirmed that the document is merely a statement of opinion, and not enforceable policy, because the First Amendment and California law do not allow universities to restrict speech on the basis of viewpoint. Nevertheless, many activists decry it as an attempt to subdue Palestinian human rights defenders.

Original article, with hyperlinks, at AIC official.

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