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Assembly urged to pass bill opposing boycott of Israel

State Sen. Jack Martins has co-sponsored a bill

State Sen. Jack Martins has co-sponsored a bill that seeks to deny state contracts to companies that boycott Israel. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Senate Republicans from Long Island on Sunday called for Assembly Democrats to pass legislation that would deny state contracts to companies that boycott Israel.

At a news conference at Andrew J. Parise Park in Cedarhurst, lawmakers said the Assembly must not delay action on the legislation, which the Senate passed 55-6 on Jan. 20.

The bill would identify companies that have participated in an anti-Israel boycott, and ban them from state business as “nonresponsive bidders.” The companies also would be ineligible for investments from the state’s pension fund.

“We here in New York State have hundreds of billions of dollars in our pension system,” Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury), the bill’s co-sponsor, said Sunday. “Nothing makes a stronger statement than passing a law that prevents our pension dollars from being invested with companies and individuals who are going to undermine our allies.”

The legislation is focused on the movement known as “BDS,” or Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. California, Illinois, South Carolina and New Jersey have passed similar anti-BDS legislation, lawmakers said.

Democrats in the Assembly said Sunday that they have been working on similar legislation and that the issue is a priority.

“Few issues are more important than standing up for the State of Israel,” said Assemb. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach), in a statement late Sunday. “I’m glad the Senate Republicans have joined my call to stop doing business with companies who participate in the BDS movement.”

Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) sponsored, and Kaminsky co-sponsored, a bill that differs from Martins’ primarily by excluding language that would apply the law to any person or business who promotes BDS or encourages others to support the movement.

“I’m not advocating for anything that would punish free speech,” Lavine said Sunday. “That’s un-American.”

Lavine said he and other members of the Assembly are meeting next week to make minor revisions to their version of the bill. He said he expected a new version to reach the floor for a vote within a few weeks.

“I will continue to look for a sponsor on the Senate side who is capable of securing passage,” he said.

The two chambers must reconcile any differences and pass identical companion bills for the proposals to become law.The international BDS movement started in 2005 to put pressure on Israel to end what organizers call the Israeli occupation, according to the Palestinian BDS National Committee’s website.

The national committee did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Sunday.

The organizers previously told The Associated Press in Jerusalem they want to end Israel’s occupation of land won in the 1967 war, end discrimination against Arab citizens of Israel and promote the right of Palestinians to return to family land lost when Israel was created in 1948.

Senate Republicans said Sunday the BDS movement amounts to anti-Semitism.

“This bill would prohibit the state from indirectly supporting those who would undermine our allies around the world,” Martins said. “There is no place in New York State for hatred and anti-Semitism.”

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