Inserting themselves into a bitter dispute about Israeli policy, a group of California lawmakers wants to bar the state from contracting with companies that refuse to do business with Israel.
Assembly Bill 1552 responds to the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, an effort to protest Israeli policies toward Palestinians by refusing foreign support for Israeli businesses. The tactic finds inspiration in boycotts like those pushed during the American civil rights movement or the battle against apartheid in South Africa.
To Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, the effort equates to discrimination. His bill would prohibit firms that boycott any member state of the World Trade Organization from holding California state contracts.
Allen called Israel “a critical trading partner of California” and pointed to the state’s large Jewish population as justifications for the bill. He pointed to pro-divestment resolutions passed by University of California students as indications that “this is a growing problem and it needs to be addressed.”
I think everyone has the right to say what they want and boycott what they want, but we’re not going to support prejudice and bigotry with taxpayer dollars,” Allen said.
Leaders in the Israeli Knesset have backed Allen’s bill. The legislative body’s deputy speaker sent a letter praising the bill for bolstering “California(’s) long-standing alliance to their economic allies.”
It has also drawn support from legislative Democrats including Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, a member of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus. While the caucus has not taken a formal position, chair Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, said members agree that anti-boycott legislation “must succeed.”
“We absolutely agree that the movement to boycott Israeli companies is very misguided,” Block said.