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NY bill would ban contracts to companies boycotting Israel

A bill in the New York Legislature would

A bill in the New York Legislature would bar contractors who boycott Israel from receiving state contracts and investments from the state pension fund. The bill is a reaction to an organization that supports Palestinian causes. Shopkeepers look over the destruction on Jan. 18, 2016, after Israel demolished stores in a village on the West Bank. Photo Credit: EPA / Alaa Badareh


A bill with bipartisan support in the state Legislature would create a list of companies that are boycotting Israel and then deny them state contracts and investments from the state pension fund.

Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) said Monday that the bill he co-sponsors would protect a strong ally of the United States. He said the bill doesn’t violate any civil liberties laws by blocking trade with companies that disagree.

“It defies comprehension to accept that our civil liberties -- our free speech rights and our right to religion -- are advanced and protected by subverting the only beacon of democracy and rights protection in the Middle East,” Lavine said Monday. “And those are the values of our strategic ally, the nation of Israel.”

The companies placed on the list to boycott companies that boycott Israel would be banned from state business as “nonresponsive bidders.” The companies also wouldn’t be eligible for investments from the state’s massive pension fund, according to the bill.

The bill in New York is similar to bills in California and a few other states. They are aimed at blocking the so-called BDS movement by a committee based in the West Bank. The organizers have told The Associated Press in Jerusalem that they seek to end Israel’s occupation of land won in the 1967 war, end discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel and promote the right of Palestinians to return to family land lost when Israel was created in 1948.

The bill is co-sponsored in New York’s state Senate by Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria). The bill is co-sponsored in the Senate by a majority party legislator -- Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn) -- who could provide the power needed to get the bill through the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Chicago Tribune last year editorialized against the version of the bill in Illinois, arguing that international issues are best handled in Washington. The editorial said that states should concern themselves with getting the best prices and making the best investments for taxpayers and pensioners. It opined that the Illinois General Assembly shouldn’t take a financial stand in international conflicts except for the most extreme cases, such as the genocide in Sudan.

New York has in past years divested from companies doing business with South Africa during the era of apartheid, and the continuing Iran Divestment Act that prohibits the state from doing business with companies that invest in Iran’s energy sector. As of December, 33 companies were on that list. New York is also among more than a dozen states that prohibit doing business with companies that invest in Sudan, and states sponsoring terrorism, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.


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