Illinois gets it Right on Dealing with BDS

If all goes according to plan in the Illinois General Assembly this week, the Springfield body will pass Senate Bill (SB) 1761 which will make it the first U.S. state to adopt legislation countering the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement taking root in America and the rest of the world.

Conceived by the recently elected Governor Bruce Rauner, sponsored by State Sen. Ira Silverstein and State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, and co-sponsored by House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, among others, the bill passed the Illinois Senate last week 49-0 (seven voted “present” and three did not vote). The Illinois House is expected to vote on this before the end of this week, and it is expected to pass there and then become law.

The law amends the Illinois Procurement Code and prohibits any State agency from entering into a contract subject to the Code with a business that boycotts Israel. Modeled on earlier state legislation that mandated divestment from South Africa, Darfur and Iran, SB 1761 requires the state’s five pension funds to divest from companies that boycott Israel. An Illinois Investment Policy Board will ensure compliance with the state’s three operative divestment laws (Darfur, Iran and Israel).

Referring to the bill during remarks at an Israeli Independence Day celebration in Chicago last week, Gov. Rauner said, “67 years didn’t happen without a fight. And 67 more won’t happen without all of us staying strong and standing up to anti-Semitism – whenever and however it appears.  Here in Illinois, we need to do our part. I made a pledge that Illinois would become the first state in America to divest its public pension funds from any company in the world that boycotts Israel.”

As a former resident of Illinois, and now contracted by the state’s Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity to encourage further business connections between Israel and Illinois, I am particularly proud of the legislature for passing such a law and to the governor for so wholeheartedly encouraging its passage.

While the BDS movement claims to be using similar tactics to what was used to end apartheid in South Africa, the fact is that at its core, the movement’s main objective is to delegitimize Israel and ultimately eliminate the country from the world’s stage.

As attorney Alan Dershowitz opined last year in Ha’aretz “The BDS movement is immoral because its leaders will never be satisfied with the kind of two state solution that is acceptable to Israel. Many of its leaders do not believe in the concept of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. (The major leader of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti, has repeatedly expressed his opposition to Israel’s right to exist as the nation state of the Jewish people even within the 1967 borders.) At bottom, therefore, the leadership of the BDS movement is opposed not only to Israel’s occupation and settlement policy but to its very existence.”

Sadly many people, including a large number of Jews worldwide, support the BDS movement mistakenly believing that somehow or other this will help bring about the creation of two states for two people in this troubled land of ours. But saner voices understand the ultimate purpose of the movement is as articulated by Dershowitz and others. Illinois is to be given credit for boldly dealing with this within its legal jurisdiction.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 29 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Immediate Past Chairperson of the Israel Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.