Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order directing state agencies to cut economic ties with businesses supporting efforts to boycott the state of Israel. The action builds on legislation that passed the New York State Senate earlier in the year. However, debate over the bill’s scope has stalled passage in the lower house. The governor’s order puts most of the senate sponsor’s goals in place, sidestepping the squabbles that have held it back until now.
“This state will not stand for the politics of discrimination in any form,” Governor Cuomo said. “I’m proud to sign this nation’s leading executive order, which will help protect Israel from the threat of divestment. This order sends the message that this state will do everything in its power to end this hateful, intolerant campaign.”
Several states have passed anti-BDS [boycott, divestment, sanction] measures and nearly 20 others have similar legislation pending. A unique feature of the senate’s bill, reflected in the governor’s order, is that it not only takes steps to cut state business with companies that take part in boycotts, but also those involved in promoting such efforts.
The senate bill was co-sponsored by Sen. Jack Martin (R) and Sen. Simcha Felder (D).
“We are very happy that the governor followed the broader approach that we took in the senate,” Martin told Hamodia. “This is a clear rejection of a movement that is built on anti-Semitism that we have fought for generations and we can’t close our eyes to that just because it is hiding behind a politically correct disguise.”
The action will prohibit state agencies under the governor’s control from investing in organizations that support BDS. It also bans contracting with such firms. One limitation of the order is that it cannot dictate the actions of the state comptroller, which can only be regulated by legislation. A Cold War-era bill already prohibits state agencies from contracting with companies participating in international boycotts, but the action expands the prohibition to limit investment.
While the concept of acting against BDS was largely welcomed by the state assembly, disagreement remains over whether those promoting boycotts, but not participating, should be included.
Bob Farley, Sen. Felder’s legislative advisor, also welcomed the governor’s action and pointed to its benefits for the state in general. “We are in a global market and a lot of businesses in the state see opportunities in doing business with Israel. This allows them to go ahead without having to worry about being attacked economically and politically for doing so.”
Many opponents of BDS point to the fact that it singles out Israel as a target, ignoring many other countries accused of human rights violations, as proof of its anti-Semitic roots.
According to its official statements, the BDS movement is an attempt to place international pressure on Israel to “comp[ly] with international law and Palestinian rights.” It has gained many adherents throughout the world, especially on college campuses. Spokesmen have insisted that its motivations are the protection of “human rights” and not anti-Semitism.
Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D), an early supporter of the legislation in the assembly against BDS, held out hope that the assembly would still pass the bill allowing for it to have its full impact on state agencies.
“We have a lot of support,” he asserted. “It’s just stuck in a bit of politics now, but we have two weeks left in the session to still get it through.”