Texas Ponders Sanctions on Firms Supporting Israel Divestment
Two lawmakers introduced companion anti-BDS bills in the Texas Senate and House that would prohibit the Lone Star State from investing public funds in companies that boycott Israel.
By: Merrill Hope
Governor Greg Abbott signaled over social media he will sign such legislation into law if passed by the state’s 85th Legislature.
Both S.B. 134 from Senator Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) and H.B. 89 from Representative Phil King (R-Weatherford) stand against boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), a discriminatory movement that uses false, distorted, and anti-Semitic rhetoric to demonize Israel and its citizens to isolate the Jewish state.
Each bill requires companies that contract with Texas government entities to verify they do not and will not boycott Israel, also barring state pension and endowment funds like the Teacher Retirement System, the Employees Retirement System of Texas, the University of Texas Investment Management Company, and the permanent school fund from investing with companies that boycott Israel.
Creighton and King pre-filed their respective pro-Israel bills in preparation for the next legislative session which starts in January. King anticipates bipartisan support.
“This bill sends a strong statement that Texas stands with its friends,” King stated in a press release. “Boycotts of entities and individuals on the basis of national origin, particularly Israel, often amount to ethnic, religious, racial and/or nationality discrimination, which directly contradicts state public policy.”
Israel is Texas’ fourth leading trade partner with numerous joint projects in agricultural research and development, science and technology and industrial research. In 2015, Texas exported $498 million of product to Israel and, in 2012, had $118 million in military contracts. Nearly 300 companies in the state do business with Israel. Texas also holds more than $50 million in high-rated State of Israel Bonds.
Said Creighton: “Israel is an oasis of freedom in the Middle East and our nation’s most valuable ally in the region,” adding: “Israel’s economic strength is reflective of essential values they share with Texas, so people of good conscience should be encouraging them, not stifling their success. It’s time for Texas to send a strong message of unity with Israel.”
Abbott tweeted his support for anti-BDS legislation after Creighton filed the senate side bill last month, posting: “Texas says Don’t Mess with Israel. Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies.”
On Tuesday, Abbott responded to a Houston Chronicle article on the anti-BDS bills, tweeting: “Boycotting Israel? You may not be able to do business with Texas anymore. I’ll sign this bill.”
The Texas governor co-chairs the bipartisan Governors Against BDS, an initiative of the American Jewish Committee. This campaign rejects efforts of the BDS movement to demonize and de-legitimize Israel “America’s democratic ally in the Middle East,” calling BDS goals “antithetical to our values and the values of our respective states.” The coalition of governors condemns BDS as “incompatible” with the nation’s values and reaffirms “our support for Israel as a vital U.S. ally, important economic partner, and champion of freedom.” To date, 34 governors and the mayor of the District of Columbia signed the petition. As of Monday, 14 states enacted anti-BDS laws.
In January, Abbott met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Texas governor voiced his steadfast support and friendship to the State of Israel.
Also this year, Abbott responded to the Obama Administration’s appeal to convince states to lift economic sanctions against Iran by urging other U.S. governors to establish, maintain, or strengthen these state-based sanctions. He called the Iran Deal misguided, short-sighted, and flawed. Abbott noted Iran, “the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism,” consistently calls for “death to America” and “articulates anti-Semitic policies.” He said the deal undermined U.S. national security and its strategic allies abroad “especially our most important Middle East ally, Israel.”