On Friday, September 18, 2015, the Pennsylvania Senate by vote of 49 to 0 passed Resolution No. 136 Session of 2015 Printer’s No. 979. The Resolution condemned economic, social, cultural and other boycotts of Israel and growing incidents of anti-Semitism. The House previously passed a similar Resolution.
House Resolution 370 Session of 2015 Printer’s No. 1697 was introduced by Matt Baker of Tioga County. The Senate Resolution was introduced by Senator Stew Greenleaf of Montgomery and Bucks Counties.
The Resolutions note the historical fact that the first attempt to boycott Jewish interests in Pennsylvania in the Pennsylvania Colony occurred in 1662 and were rejected when Sir Robert Carr, in 1664, assumed command of the Delaware in the name of the English Crown. Instructions to Carr were that “all people should enjoy the liberty of their conscience,” and the proposed boycott of Jewish merchants ceased.
The Resolutions further recognize a strong connection that American Jewry had in supporting the American Revolution. A prime consideration of the Resolutions is The International Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) which has been one of the main vehicles for spreading antisemitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish State. Activities promoting BDS against Israel have occurred in Pennsylvania, including on college campuses. The BDS campaign has utilized animosity and intimidation against Jews, including Jewish students on campus. It was clearly recognized by the Resolutions in the House and the Senate that the purpose of the BDS is to eliminate Israel as home of the Jewish people.
Group boycotts have a long history of condemnation in the United States on both the federal and state level. The Pennsylvania legislature condemned the BDS movement and its agenda as “inherently antithetical and deeply damaging to the causes of peace, justice, equality, democracy and human rights for all peoples in the Middle East.”
The House and Senate reaffirmed its support for the State of Israel, recognizing that the Jewish people are indigenous to the land of Israel. Both chambers condemned all attacks on the people of Israel, supporting Israel’s rights to engage in lawful acts of self-defense. They opposed all attempts to deny the legitimacy of Israel as a sovereign state. The Senate Resolution urged the Office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth to explore whether the BDS movement in the Commonwealth violates any Commonwealth laws. Both Resolutions have been transmitted to the President of the United States and the members of Congress, the Office of the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Pennsylvania joins a small but growing chorus of states that have acted defiantly to take a stand against antisemitism and economic boycotts intended to destroy the ability of the State of Israel to function effectively.