There are two states that I am very attached to and interested in — New Jersey, my home state, and Alabama, my adopted state. And having  lived a substantial part of my life in each state, I can tell you that they have little in common.

New Jersey is a densely populated urban state, Alabama is much smaller in population and a mostly rural state. Alabama has voted red in recent Presidential elections, New Jersey blue.  Life in New Jersey, particularly in the New York metropolitan area, seems hurried and, at times, intense.  Life in Alabama tends to be more laid back and relaxed. The list could go on and on.

However, as I write this, I am deeply proud of both states and for the same reason — their willingness to stand up to a hideous and anti-Semitic form of economic and political warfare directed at Israel, an American ally and sister democracy.

This warfare against the Jewish state is known as “BDS” — which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.  It singles out Israel, accusing the country of being a horrible abuser of human rights, particularly Palestinian rights, and ignores the real human rights transgressions committed routinely by other countries and regimes in the Middle East and the world in general.

Earlier this year, thanks in part to the efforts of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, an agency I serve as its Executive Director, Alabama adopted one of the toughest anti-BDS laws in the nation.  As a result of this new measure, companies that boycott Israel cannot do business with the state of Alabama. New Jersey, recently, adopted its own measure, joining the growing list of states that have adopted strong anti-BDS laws.

New Jersey Assembly member Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a Democrat and one of the bill’s prime sponsors, attended the signing of the bill at the State House.  “I’m very grateful,” she said after Republican Governor Chris Christie signed the measure, according to NorthJersey.com. “I’m happy to see that New Jersey remains a strong ally to Israel. The purpose of the bill is to make sure – they are the sole democracy in that area – that we don’t stifle them,” she said.

Noted NorthJersey.com:  “The bill, which had 60 co-sponsors, passed the Assembly by a 70-3 vote. It was unanimously approved in the Senate where the Israeli Consul General from New York addressed the lawmakers before the vote.”

The legislature in New Jersey is controlled by Democrats.  In Alabama it is controlled by Republicans.  Yet the fact that these two states, along with a growing list of others, have recently adopted anti-BDS measures reflects that support for Israel is not a Republican or Democratic issue — it is an American issue.  This is not surprising given Israel’s shared values with the US and its importance to America’s strategic interests in the volatile Middle East.
The passage of these measures in these two states, as well as others, also underscores growing awareness and discomfort among public officials over the tactics and attitudes of the BDS movement.
Moreover, Jews and others who care about Israel have mainly focused over the years on educating our Members of Congress and other Washington policy-makers about the importance of a strong Israel.   But, ironically, the BDS movement, designed to weaken Israel, may actually have strengthened the Jewish state because, as a result, Americans who care about Israel’s well-being have gotten more involved with educating their state legislatures and governors about Israel and the challenges it faces.  BDS has spurred pro-Israel activists to become even more effective and to broaden their reach.
Even though I have now lived most of my life in Alabama, I salute my home state and thank those elected officials in New Jersey who supported this important measure.  Two states, vastly different, united in their support for Israel. My states! That makes me proud.