2016-07-06 / Home

NJ lawmakers pass anti-BDS legislation

By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff

Joining the growing number of states countering the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the New Jersey legislature has approved a bill prohibiting the state from investing pension and annuity funds in companies that boycott Israel or Israeli businesses.

The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Sen. James Beach (D-Camden) in the Senate and Pamela Lampitt (D-Camden & Burlington), Chris Brown (R-Atlantic) and Vincent Mazzeo (D-Atlantic) in the Assembly, as well as others, passed last week by a vote of 70 in favor, three abstentions, and two no votes. It had previously been approved 37-0 in the Senate. At press time, it was anticipated that Gov. Chris Christie would sign it into law.

“New Jersey has a long history of friendship with Israel, and any efforts to boycott Israeli goods, products and businesses are not only contrary to our values but are discriminatory and ill-intentioned,” said Beach, who visited Israel earlier this year with 14 fellow lawmakers on a study mission sponsored by the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations. “We remain committed to standing against these practices, and banning investments in companies that engage in these activities is the right course of action.”

Beach noted that Cherry Hill resident David Hollander suggested the idea for the law after similar legislation was passed in Illinois.

Under the bill, the State would have 120 days after passage to identify companies that violate the prohibition. It would have an additional 24 months to divest. The state’s $71-billion pension fund covers about 800,000 active and retired public employees. However, the Treasury Department isn’t aware of any companies with which the state has invested the funds that would violate the legislation, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“We are grateful that once again members of the Senate and Assembly have made a strong statement in recognition of the historic cultural and economic ties between New Jersey and Israel,” stated Mark S. Levenson, president of the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations.

New Jersey and Israel trade more than $1.3-billion in goods and services annually, according to the bill.

The Garden State joins 21 states that have taken up anti- BDS legislation. Some 12 of them have passed similar laws, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and South Carolina. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed an executive order to accomplish the goal.

(JTA contributed to this report.) 

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