Statehouse Moves Mark Dramatic Setback for Anti-Israel BDS Campaign

The virulently anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement that seeks to isolate, weaken and destroy the Jewish state is encountering new obstacles in American state legislatures.

In the Washington Post‘s Volokh Conspiracy blog, Northwestern University Law School professor and constitutional and international law expert Eugene Kontorovich reports that “the Illinois House just joined the state’s senate in unanimously passing a bill that would prevent the state’s pension fund from investing in companies that boycott Israel. Gov. Bruce Rauner has pledged to sign the historic ‘anti-BDS’ bill.”

Illinois is not the first state to take a stand against the anti-Israel BDS movement, but with this bill, Illinois puts its pension money where its mouth is. Last month, both the Tennessee General Assembly and the Tennessee Senate voted overwhelmingly to formally condemn the BDS movement. As the JNS news service reports on the Tennessee bill:

The resolution, which is expected to be signed… by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, declares that the BDS movement is “one of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state,” adding that BDS activities in Tennessee “undermine the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, which they are fulfilling in the State of Israel.”

Furthermore, the resolution states that the BDS movement and its agenda are “inherently antithetical and deeply damaging to the causes of peace, justice, equality, democracy and human rights for all the peoples in the Middle East.”

The Indiana State Senate recently passed a similar non-binding resolution opposing boycotts of Israel. Earlier, the Indiana House of Representatives unanimously passed the anti-BDS resolution. The measure now goes to Indiana Governor Mike Pence for his signature.

The Illinois bill is the strongest measure to pass to date, putting real economic teeth behind the state’s condemnation of BDS. As Kontorovich writes:

The significance of the bill cannot be underestimated. European countries have in recent years been whispering dark threats in corporate ears about the “legal and economic risks” of doing business with Israeli companies. The vagueness of these warnings is a testament to their legal groundlessness. But such scare tactics could not help but affect, at the margin, corporate decision-making. Now, the EU will – if it is honest – have to warn businesses of the legal and economic risks of consciously refusing to do business with such Israeli companies.

BDS is particularly active on colleges across North America, where anti-Israel groups have tried to pass resolutions to boycott Israel through student governments. And, at these campuses and others, CAMERA is helping students not only fight back, but also engage in proactive, pro-Israel action. (See the CAMERA on Campus blog “In Focus” to read about these activities and the CAMERA on Campus Web site for some of the many resources CAMERA provides to combat BDS.)

Though no university administration has agreed to participate in a boycott of Israeli companies or academics, America’s future leaders are being trained in this hostile environment. Anti-Israel activists – including even professors – harass, berate and in some cases assault pro-Israel or Jewish students.

Indeed, as CAMERA fellow Ali Jabick at the University of Connecticut wrote:

In a study examining anti-Semitism on college campuses conducted by the Louis D. Brandeis Center and Trinity College, they found that 54 percent of Jewish students surveyed have experienced or witnessed some form of anti-Semitism.
The most common incidences reported were of students who experienced anti-Semitism from an individual student. Students also reported anti-Semitism in other contexts like, flyers, social media and graffiti. Instances of anti-Semitic graffiti have occurred at numerous universities, including Emory, UC Davis, Tufts and Vanderbilt, where swastikas were spray painted onto fraternity houses.

In addition, students reported that they witnessed or experienced anti-Semitism in clubs, organizations and even in classes. Recently, at the University of California Los Angeles, a student running for a position on the judicial council was scrutinized and almost denied appointment by the student government because she was Jewish.
Students are even experiencing anti-Semitism in the classroom. At Northeastern University, professor, Muhammad Shahid Alam, demonizes Israel, delegitimizes Jewish history and infringes on his student’s free speech by shutting down any differing views. A non-Jewish student that dropped his class stated that “if someone does raise a counterpoint, he uses semantics to twist it around and try to tear whoever asked the question apart.”

BDS is a serious problem but the truth is that the majority of Americans stand firmly with Israel. This is why there is a growing movement in state legislatures to condemn anti-Israel boycotts. Still, much more needs to be done.

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