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New Jersey becomes 11th state to pass anti-BDS measure

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New Jersey became the latest state to pass legislation against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement yesterday. By a 69-3 vote, the State Assembly passed a bill to prohibit pension fund investment in pro-boycott companies.

The legislation had passed the State Senate in May by a 39-0 vote. Now that both the Assembly and Senate have passed the legislation, it goes to Governor Chris Christie, who is expected to sign the bill.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a Democrat who represents Bergen, New Jersey, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the bill was about “bringing together people and making sure we don’t promote anti-Semitism.” The news outlet also reported that a spokesman for the New Jersey Treasury Department said they were not aware of any investments that would violate the law. A division of the department will be tasked with investigating if the state is indeed invested in pro-BDS entities.

The move by the State Assembly is a defeat for a coalition of civil liberties and pro-Palestine groups in New Jersey, who had mobilized in recent months to try and defeat the legislation. They said the bill is an attack on the First Amendment right to boycott Israel. Opponents also say that, in the state’s effort to determine which company violates the law, New Jersey would be creating a McCarthy-like “blacklist” that would necessitate investigation into people’s political beliefs.

New Jersey is now the eleventh state in the past year to pass anti-BDS legislation, according to Palestine Legal. Nine of those states’ governors have signed the bills into law. They range from bills, like in New Jersey, that prohibit pension fund investment in entities that boycott Israel or measures that bar state contracts or funding with institutions that support BDS. California and Pennsylvania are also considering anti-BDS measures. Earlier this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo made headlines when he issued a first-of-its-kind executive order directing agencies under his authority to investigate entities that support BDS and receive New York funds, put those entities on a list, and then strip them of cash from the state.

Pro-Israel groups have backed and lobbied for anti-BDS bills. After the New Jersey Assembly passed their own bill, Josh Block, former AIPAC spokesperson Josh Block and current head of The Israel Project, commendedthe people of New Jersey and their elected officials for strongly standing up against baseless anti-Israel discrimination.”

The New Jersey bill passed both the Assembly and Senate despite opposition from groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American Civil Liberties Union. The New Jersey chapter of the ACLU delivered a letter this month to legislation harshly criticizing the bill. “The legislation, which attempts to punish companies that support boycotts of Israel or Israeli businesses, would unconstitutionally penalize people for what they think and say,” the group wrote. “Troublingly, the legislation mandates that the government launch investigations to determine which people’s political positions require their placement on a legislatively directed ‘blacklist.’”

New Jersey newspapers also blasted the bill. The New Jersey Star-Ledger said the legislation takes “Big Brother to the extreme” in a scathing editorial.

But the opposition was taking on legislators unlikely to heed their calls. Pro-Israel sentiment is a virtual given in state legislatures across the country. Governors are no different. Governor Christie has not deviated from the standard pro-Israel line. He will likely sign the legislation, and make New Jersey the 10th state to make an anti-BDS measure law.

Still, opponents of these laws may have their day in court. Legal groups have warned that such bills are unconstitutional, setting up a potential court fight over whether prohibiting state funds to pro-BDS entities is legal under the U.S. Constitution.

Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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10 Responses

  1. jsinton on June 28, 2016, 6:17 pm

    And they say money can’t buy happiness. But then again, nothing surprises me anymore since I’m expected to take our absurd political system seriously.

  2. hippocrasy on June 28, 2016, 8:31 pm

    thank God Christi got it right the first time this time. I would hate to see the lobby correct him again. I think he is eating all his donations.

  3. Kay24 on June 28, 2016, 10:34 pm

    We have a bunch of idiots in NJ who are too ignorant to realize what BDS is, and is buying the propaganda of the criminal nation who deserves to be boycotted and sanctioned for numerous crimes including an occupation and theft of lands. I will never vote for any of these scumbags who are led by an overfed politician who has embarrassed us all by embracing Drumpf and kissing Netanyahu’s large behind like most politicians in this country keep doing.
    They are a disgusting lot.

  4. DaBakr on June 28, 2016, 11:24 pm

    the poor poor pro-palestinian coalition can still boycott israel till the cows come home. they can boycott as a group or boycott as individuals. while i wouldn’t say that new jersey is full of “idiots” any more then the 49 other US states I doubt wether they care about the details of BDS as they are smart enough to recognize that it is anti-israel on its surface and some may even conclude that many of the bds proponents who cry the loudest have overtones of what they think is jew-hating. wrong or right-they are smart enough to understand that something like bds goes against their core values and their nations long standing policy of support for the jewish nation. that is america at its center core of christian or some say judea-christian values. i would add islam in there as well but it may take a while as well as more muslim americans for your average citizen to recognize islam as a core judea-christian religion

    • eljay on June 29, 2016, 12:08 pm

      || DaBakr: … while i wouldn’t say that new jersey is full of “idiots” any more then the 49 other US states … they are smart enough to understand that something like bds goes against their core values … ||

      It speaks very poorly of the people of New Jersey that their core values:
      – include Jewish supremacism in/and a religion-supremacist “Jewish State” in as much as possible of Palestine and all manner of past and on-going (war) crimes committed by Jews against non-Jews; but
      – do not include the universal and consistent application of justice, accountability and

      • Mr.T on June 30, 2016, 11:07 am

        “It speaks very poorly of the people of New Jersey that their core values …”

        This isn’t about the people of New Jersey, this is about the politicians in NJ being as bought and paid for by the Israeli lobby, no less than in New York. That idiot Corey Booker’s in the thrall of the right-wing grifter, Smuley Boteach, for pete’s sakes, even though they’re in different parties.

  5. K Renner on June 29, 2016, 3:04 am

    Maybe Crusty Chris will keel over from a heart attack. I almost feel bad for his kids, though. Almost.

  6. Elizabeth Block on June 29, 2016, 10:41 am

    There was an attempt in Ontario too, a private member’s bill (they almost never pass) which completely misstated the nature and aims of BDS, and was defeated as an attack on freedom of speech – which it was. It would never have survived a court challenge, but in the meantime it would have scared a lot of people.
    There will be another attempt in the fall, and we are already organizing to stop it.
    Then there was the resolution in the Canadian federal parliament, condemning BDS, which had no legal effect at all, but again scared some people.

    I look on these actions as evidence that BDS is effective. It scares the hell out of Israel and its supporters, because they see that it delegitimizes the Occupation, if not the nature of Israel itself.

  7. jsinton on June 29, 2016, 1:07 pm

    I agree. BDS must be effective if they are to take such drastic measures to stamp it out. Their absurd arguments hold Constitutional water.

  8. Wayne on June 30, 2016, 7:47 am

    This does not look good for New Jersey at all.

    What they are telling the world is that they can easily be bought and that they proudly support terrorism, genocide and human rights atrocities.

    The fact that Israel would go to such extreme measures to delegitimize a peaceful human rights movement means that it is working very well.

    We are witnessing the beginning of the end of the Israeli terror machine.

    Thank God!

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