Gov. Scott Walker is expected to sign a bill to bar the state from entering into contracts with companies that boycott Israel.
The state Assembly and Senate approved the bill in recent weeks.
Walker “has long supported the State of Israel,” said the governor’s press secretary, Amy Hasenberg, in an email. “He believes the United States has a vested interest in seeing Israel succeed. The governor looks forward to signing this bill into law.”
The bill will protect Wisconsin’s economy from efforts to restrict trade with Israel, efforts which are being promoted by the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS), according to Elana Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
“We know that the ultimate goal of boycotting Israel is not to promote peace and justice, nor to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to a solution, but to sow division, shut down exchanges and cooperation, and ultimately to challenge Israel’s legitimacy,” said Hannah Rosenthal, president and CEO of Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
“This bill makes clear that Wisconsin will not be complicit in discrimination against Israelis, or any other people based on national origin,” said Rabbi Paula Winnig, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Madison.
Legislative hearings were held on the bill. There were several speakers in support, but others opposed the bill, including Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, chair of J Street’s Madison chapter. He said he opposes the BDS 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.
In October, Walker issued an executive order with similar language to the bill. It prohibited state agencies from contracting with any business entity that discriminates against Israel. The order was issued as Walker led a 15-member trade delegation to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
“We stand firmly against discrimination in any form and we wholly support our friends in Israel,” Walker said in a news release.
According to Kahn, 24 states have passed bills or resolutions, or implemented executive orders, similar to the bill and executive order in Madison.