Taking the “B” Out of BDS

by Natalie Jacobs and Caline Chitayat August 1, 2016


MapIn the absence of a federal mandate against the boycott, divestment and sanctioning of Israel, states across the country this year have taken it upon themselves to address the growing movement that many see as an existential threat to the Jewish state. When most people think of BDS, they think of student groups seeking to pressure their campuses to divest from Israel in their endowment funds. But there are also independent companies that are actively boycotting goods and services from Israel. This is where state laws aim to flex their muscles.

To date, 14 states have passed “anti-BDS” laws. There are also 10 other states with bills at various levels within legislatures. Though few mention Israel by name, these bills focus mostly on the “B” in BDS – they seek to punish entities for engaging in boycotts by eliminating them from eligibility to win state government contracts. But concerned citizens beware, simply calling them “anti-BDS legislation” and praising state lawmakers for their protection of Israel might be taking things a bit too far. Some of these bills are so narrow in their scope that it’s hard to imagine they’ll do anything but cause more backlog in the government bidding process. Others are wide-reaching enough to cause concern that their negative effects will be felt beyond the BDS campaign.

Alabama – Passed

Bars the state from entering into contracts with entities that boycott “certain persons or entities with whom the state enjoys open trade.”

Arizona – Passed

Expressly prohibits state government from investing in or contracting with any company that boycotts Israel

California – Pending

Too convoluted to express briefly. The current version involves contracts larger than $100,000, the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the CA Fair Employment and Housing Act, and penalty of perjury.

Colorado – Passed

Requires Public Employees Retirement Association to identify companies that have “economic prohibitions against Israel,” notify the company that it has been placed on the list and may be eligible for divestment from PERA.

Florida – Passed

State must create and maintain a list of “scrutinized companies” noted for participating in boycotts of Israel. If a company is on the list, it is no longer eligible for state or municipal contracting.

Georgia – Passed

Prohibits the state from entering into “certain” contracts with an individual or company unless the contract expressly certifies that the company is not engaged in a boycott of Israel and will not engage in such a boycott for the duration of the contract.

Illinois – Passed

Prohibits state pension funds from investing in companies that participate in BDS.

Indiana – Passed

Similar to Colorado, requires public retirement system to divest from businesses that engage in “action or inaction to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel.” Also provides for notice to those businesses.

Iowa – Passed

Applies to funds invested by the state treasurer, Board of Regents, Public Employees’ Retirement System and “some other state pension funds.” Prohibits public entity from entering a contract of more than $1,000 with a company that boycotts Israel or “territories controlled by Israel.”

Kansas – Pending

In progress since 2015

Maryland – Passed

Passed in 2014

Massachusetts – Pending


New Jersey – Passed

Allows Commissioner to make the blacklist of companies and institutions that participate in BDS targeting Israel. The list will be made public, and companies/institutions will be alerted.

New York – Passed by Executive Order

The state formally rejected BDS

Ohio – Pending

Currently only defines boycott and divestment.

Oklahoma – Pending

No details currently available

Pennsylvania – Pending

A resolution condemning BDS and anti-Semitism.

Rhode Island – Passed

Prohibits companies with state government contracts from boycotting Israel.

South Carolina – Passed

Bars state agencies from contracting with businesses that boycott “based on race, color, religion, gender or national origin.” The state has a second bill pending which will condemn student groups engaged in BDS.

South Dakota – Pending

Commends Israel for its positive relationship with the state.

Tennessee – Passed

Condemns BDS.

Texas – Pending

Condemns BDS.

Virginia – Pending

Condemns BDS.

Wisconsin – Pending

No details currently available.


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