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November 19, 2018 12:09 pm

Kentucky and Other States Take a Stand Against BDS and Discrimination

avatar by Jacob Millner


Signs at a pro-BDS protest in New York following the US decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Photo: Reuters/Carlo Allegri.

Discrimination is wrong. That’s why states, including Kentucky, are enforcing measures aimed at pushing back against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

In just three years since Illinois passed the first-in-the-nation anti-boycott legislation in May 2015, 25 other states have followed suit, making anti-BDS laws one of the most successful efforts in recent legislative memory.

These state measures call out the BDS campaign for what it is: a form of economic warfare, steeped in hate and discrimination, aimed at the lone Jewish state in the world.

In a nation seemingly divided on everything, legislatures and governors from New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota, all the way to Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Florida, and many others have forcefully identified BDS as a form of hate. Kentucky is the latest addition to states who oppose these boycotts. And these states should be applauded. Americans must not condone taxpayer dollars going to subsidize discrimination.

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“We will not allow state resources to benefit entities that intentionally engage in discriminatory practices to harm the sovereignty and economic prosperity of any ally nation,” Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin said upon signing the latest directive. “Today’s executive order makes it clear that Kentucky condemns the BDS movement and that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our friend, Israel.”

Governor Bevin’s assessment echoes sentiments shared by many of his colleagues on the Left and Right.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) wrote in an op-ed published in The Washington Post in June 2016, “My order ensures that no state agency or authority will engage in or promote any investment activity that would further the harmful and discriminatory BDS campaign.” Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) stated in May 2017 that he signed an anti-BDS bill because “As Israel’s No. 1 trading partner in the United States, Texas is proud to reaffirm its support for the people of Israel and we will continue to build on our historic partnership. … Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally.”

Bevin, Cuomo, and Abbott all understand that boycotting Israel for political purposes is unfair and creates a double standard, which the US State Department has deemed antisemitism.

And I do not use the term “antisemitism” lightly. There is plenty of legitimate criticism to be directed against Israel, her government, and her policies. However, the singling out of the lone Jewish state for divestment and sanctions under the guise of “opposing occupation” — while not addressing the hundreds of other territorial disputes around the world — is a double standard that should not and cannot be tolerated.

French President Emmanuel Macron echoed this when he stated in July 2017, “We will never surrender to the messages of hate; we will not surrender to anti-Zionism because it is a reinvention of anti-Semitism.”

This followed UN Secretary General António Guterres’ remarks from April 2017, in which he noted that, “The denial of the right of the State of Israel to exist is one of the modern forms of anti-Semitism. … [Israel] should be treated like any other member state.”

Why has the effort to pass anti-BDS legislation been successful? Because American state legislators and governors, Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as our friends in Europe, all reject the ideology of hate and discrimination that lies at the heart of the BDS movement, which is aimed at the destruction of Israel.

Discrimination is wrong and must never be tolerated. The boycott movement not only seeks to damage to the Jewish state, but also the US itself. America is that “shining city upon the hill.” We are a beacon of freedom, liberty, and democracy. We should be proud that our states, including the Commonwealth of Kentucky, continue to lead the way with sound judgement and moral courage.

Jacob Millner is Midwest regional director and senior policy analyst for The Israel Project.

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