Florida and California are the latest US states to take legislative measures against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) and other anti-Israel groups and businesses.
In a landmark decision in December, Florida became the fifth state to adopt Tennessee’s historic resolution, originally passed in the Tennessee Senate in April, condemning the BDS movement for its anti-Israel activity and the damage it inflicts on the cause of peace in the Middle East.
Florida’s decision is a reaction to growing anti-Semitic sentiment and activity in the state, including boycotting of Israeli political leaders and businesses and attacks against Jewish and pro-Israel students on university campuses – a phenomenon which is visible nationwide as well as in Florida.
The campaign against BDS is spearheaded by the group Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN), an organization dedicated to educating Christians on their Biblical responsibility to stand with Israel.
The bipartisan resolution condemning BDS was drafted by Florida State Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami) and State House Representative Lori Berman (D-Lantana) with the help of PJTN’s chairman, Stanley G. Tate.
PJTN president Laurie Cardoza-Moore said in a statement that President Obama is among the culprits strengthening BDS, stating that Obama has “joined the growing chorus of global voices calling for boycotting Israel” with his treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his endorsement of the recent EU resolution labeling products manufactured in Judea and Samaria.
The US president, who has had a bumpy relationship with Israel, “lends legitimacy to the BDS movement and anti-Semitic attacks,” said Cardoza-Moore. “Obama’s despicable action of boycotting America’s only legitimate ally in the Middle East threatens to further isolate and demonize Israel.”
Cardoza-Moore urged other states to adopt the resolution in order to “expose the malicious intent of the BDS campaign and confront it head-on”.
“With 70% of Americans supporting Israel over the Arab-Israeli conflict, I am calling on Christians, Jews and people of conscience to add their voices to this groundbreaking initiative by contacting PJTN.org and launching this initiative in their states,” she said.
On Monday, California also took steps against BDS by introducing the California-Israel Commerce Protection Act, which will require the State of California to divest from all companies that participate in boycotts of Israel.
Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), who introduced the bill, called attention to the historically strong alliance between the US and Israel, which is bolstered by “shared values, a bilateral trade relationship, and our unwavering commitment to freedom and democracy.”
Therefore, he continued, a boycott of Israel directly harms the US and the state of California. “Any company that is intentionally inflicting economic harm upon California’s trading partners weakens our ability to conduct business and harms the vital economic interests of our state,” he explained.
He added that boycotts of countries are often based on ethnic or religious discrimination, “which directly contradicts the values of California citizens.”
Israel is California’s 18th largest export destination, with over $2.3 billion worth of goods exported in 2014.
The California-Israel Commerce Protection Act makes a point of specifying companies that boycott Israel’s territories, prohibiting the State of California from investing in any company engaging in activities “intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or otherwise limit commercial relations with the State of Israel or companies based in the State of Israel or in territories controlled by the State of Israel”.
“It is unconscionable for our state to do business with companies that play politics and boycott our critical allies,” Allen concluded in his statement. “California has developed long-standing social, political, and economic partnerships with the State of Israel that should not be cast aside by politicians.”