With the stroke of a pen, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf last week made Pennsylvania the 14th state to adopt legislation targeting companies that engage in boycotts or other actions supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
“We must make clear that we are in favor of a peaceful, negotiated solution to this conflict,” Wolf said of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict during a Nov. 4 signing ceremony for House Bill 2107, now Act 163 of 2016. “[We will] not encourage economic punishment in place of peaceful solutions to challenging conflicts.”
Sent to the governor in the waning days of the Republican-controlled General Assembly’s session, the legislation requires companies doing business with the state to certify that they do not boycott or discriminate against any sovereign state. It sailed through passage on votes of 181-9 in the House of Representatives and 47-1 in the Senate.
The law was authored by Rep. Matt Baker (R-District 68), who represents parts of Tioga, Bradford and Potter counties, and cosponsored by House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-District 28) of Allegheny County.
The BDS movement “is one of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism,” Turzai said in a statement. “It is in our best interest to stand with Israel by promoting trade and commercial activities and to discourage policies that disregard that interest.
“Republicans and Democrats in the House have taken an historic step forward in the fight against prejudice,” he added. “I am proud our state has chosen to stand on the right side of history, uphold our historic opposition to discrimination, and stand with one of America’s strongest allies.”
In Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition took the lead in fighting for the law’s passage.
“This is part of a long-term trend from the government of Pennsylvania that basically supports Israel and these causes,” said Matt Handel, the organization’s chairman. “We’ve had terror-free investment that was passed several years ago. There’s been support for Holocaust education and support for terror-free procurement.
“We have a [state] government that has stated quite clearly that they don’t want to do business with potential enemies of Israel. They don’t want to procure from companies that potentially do business with the enemies of Israel. With this BDS statement, they’re taking the next logical step and saying, ‘We don’t want government funds used to target Israel unfairly.’”
Dani Dayan, the Israeli consul general to New York and the Mid-Atlantic region, congratulated legislators for strengthening Pennsylvania’s bond with the Jewish state.
“In endorsing this important legislation, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania has not only stood up for the sacred bonds of brotherhood and friendship with the people of Israel, but also for the principles of justice and peace in the Middle East,” Dayan said in a statement. “The close cooperation between Israel and Pennsylvania reflects not only shared values but shared interests of innovation and prosperity.”