Bill to bar Israel boycott under review

 

A bill to bar the state from entering into contracts with companies that boycott Israel has been under review in Madison.

The bill has been approved by legislative committees and by the Assembly and is awaiting further review in the state Senate.

Elana Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, said that from meeting repeatedly with state legislators she learned that the bill had strong bipartisan support.

Passing the bill would ensure “the state won’t be complicit in discrimination against people based on their national origin,” she said. Noting that there are dire problem spots throughout the world, including genocide, she said, “There is no other country that there is a boycott effort against right now.”

Legislative hearings were held on the bill. Speakers in support included Moshe Katz, Hilary Miller, Rabbi Avi Zarmi, and a representative from Christians United for Israel. Others opposed the bill, including Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, chair of J Street’s Madison chapter. He said he opposes the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement but saw the anti-BDS legislation as a free-speech “overreach.”

“This bill does not impinge on anybody’s free speech rights,” Kahn said, adding that an amendment has it applying to companies, not people, and only to contracts in excess of $100,000.

Rep. Dale Kooyenga and state Sen. Leah Vukmir, both Republicans, are sponsors of the bill.

Gov. Scott Walker has already signed an executive order with similar language to the bill, but the bill if passed would give its objectives the force of law. According to Kahn, 24 states have passed bills or resolutions, or implemented executive orders, similar to the proposed bill in Madison.