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NY bill would ban contracts to companies boycotting Israel

Assemb. Charles Lavine is seen during a conference

Assemb. Charles Lavine is seen during a conference call on Nov. 7, 2013. Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

ALBANY

Two bills with bipartisan support in the State Legislature would create a list of companies that are boycotting Israel and then deny them state contracts and investments from the state pension fund.

Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) said Monday that the bill he co-sponsors would protect a strong ally of the United States. He said the bill doesn’t violate any civil liberties laws or trade laws.

“It defies comprehension to accept that our civil liberties — our free speech rights and our right to religion — are advanced and protected by subverting the only beacon of democracy and rights protection in the Middle East,” Lavine said Monday. “And those are the values of our strategic ally, the nation of Israel.”

The companies placed on the list would be banned from state business as “nonresponsive bidders.” The companies also wouldn’t be eligible for investments from the state’s massive pension fund, according to the bill.

A similar Senate bill states that New York’s law wouldn’t limit free speech by companies, but would “merely prevent the state of New York from being dragged into a discriminatory agenda.”

“New York State has a special responsibility to make sure that our resources are not used in efforts to attack our allies,” said Sen. Jack Martins (R-Old Westbury), sponsor of the bill.

On Tuesday, Assemb. Helene Weinstein (D-Brooklyn) introduced her bill, identical to Martin’s, into the Assembly, a spokesman said.

Each bill is similar to bills in California and a few other states. They are aimed at blocking the so-called BDS Movement by a committee based in the West Bank. The organizers have told The Associated Press in Jerusalem that they seek 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.

Lavine’s bill is co-sponsored in the State Senate by Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria). Martin’s bill now also has a majority co-sponsor in the Assembly through Weinstein’s action Tuesday.

New York has in past years divested from companies doing business with South Africa during the era of apartheid, and the continuing Iran Divestment Act prohibits the state from doing business with companies that invest in Iran’s energy sector. As of December, 33 companies were on that list. New York is also among more than a dozen states that prohibit doing business with companies that invest in Sudan, and other states sponsoring terrorism, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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