Morton A. Klein, National President of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) issued the following statement:
The ZOA praises Senators Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Representatives Juan Vargas (D-CA-51) and Bob Dold (R-IL-10) for introducing the bipartisan “Combating BDS Act of 2016” (S. 2531/H.R. 4514) into both houses of Congress. The Combating BDS Act of 2016 defends against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement’s economic warfare against Israel, by specifically authorizing state and local governments to enact anti-BDS legislation.
The Combating BDS Act of 2016 is especially timely and important, because New York and other states are in the midst of trying to enact anti-BDS laws. Please see ZOA’s Action Alert about New York’s anti-BDS bill (A-9036), and if you live in New York, please contact your State Assemblyperson to ask him/her to pass A-9036.
The ZOA is also especially pleased that the Combating BDS Act of 2016 defines the term ‘‘boycott, divestment, or sanctions activity targeting Israel’’ to include “any activity that is intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or otherwise limit commercial relations with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories, for purposes of coercing political action by, or imposing policy positions on, the government of Israel.” This definition means that boycotters will not be able to get away with the “divide and conquer” tactic of targeting Israeli products from areas over the “green line” (the 1949 Armistice lines, where the fighting stopped after seven Arab nations invaded and illegally seized parts of Israel in 1949). As ZOA has previously noted, so-called “targeted” boycotts invariably turn into boycotts of all of Israel, and harm all of Israel.
Senator Kirk explained in a press release that: “Illinois was the first state in the nation to enact a law to divest public pension funds from companies engaging in BDS. The new bipartisan legislation would authorize state and local governments to divest from companies engaged in BDS activities targeting Israel. The Combating BDS Act of 2016 uses the power of the purse to fight back against anti-Semitism throughout the world. This bipartisan bill would authorize state and local governments in the United States to follow Illinois’ lead and divest from companies engaged in boycotts and other forms of economic warfare against Israel. With this bill, Congress underscores the critical role that state and local governments and their communities have to play in the ongoing struggle against anti-Semitism worldwide.”
“Opponents of Israel are increasingly using BDS as a hateful weapon to delegitimize the Jewish State and those who stand with her. At a time when anti-Israel boycotts are popping up around the country and the globe, the United States, Israel and our allies require new ways to defend against the evolving threat of economic warfare. Similar to previous state-based efforts to divest from companies doing business with Iran, a movement among state and local governments is growing to enact measures to divest from entities participating in the anti-Israel BDS movement.”
“The Combating BDS Act of 2016 strengthens these efforts by affirming, at the federal level, the legal authority of state and local governments to take tangible actions to counter this economic warfare against Israel. The bill clarifies that state or local governments have the legal authority to identify and divest public funds from entities engaged in BDS when the designations are based on “credible information available to the public.” By clarifying this authority, this legislation will protect state and local governments from lawsuits alleging they are unreasonably burdening or discriminating against interstate or foreign commerce. The bill’s nonpreemption safe harbor for asset managers will also give states an offensive capability against entities seeking to economically damage Israel.”
Congressman Dold said: “The BDS movement serves as a means to delegitimize Israel’s existence and inflame tensions in communities and on college campuses across the country. This important legislation empowers community leaders and individuals who seek to counter the hateful targeting of Israel, while sending an unquestionable message about our steadfast opposition to BDS and strong support for those who stand up for Israel.
The ZOA is actively involved in the efforts to combat BDS on college campuses, in organizations, and on the state and federal levels.
ZOA National President Morton Klein stated: “Anti-Jewish boycotts are classic anti-Semitism. BDS is the modern version of this ages-old anti-Semitic scourge, and is designed to destroy and delegitimize the Jewish state. We appreciate the bi-partisan Congressional efforts to help stamp out destructive, anti-Semitic BDS activities.”