Calif. Passes Compromise Bill on BDS

YERUSHALAYIM -

After months of wrangling, the California State Assembly voted 60-0 for a bill that targets the Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS), but it’s not everything that Israel supporters wanted.

The initial draft of AB 2844 introduced by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) called for a state boycott of companies who participate in boycotts of Israel.

But the bill was watered down to satisfy the objections of those who said it would violate constitutionally protected boycott rights. In the end, the version of the bill to be sent to the governor for signing no longer imposes a ban on contractors from boycotting Israel. Instead, it requires only that companies certify they don’t violate state civil rights law in the course of boycotting a sovereign nation recognized by the United States — including Israel, the only country mentioned by name, according to a report in The Jewish Journal of California.

“The bottom line is that the state should not subsidize discrimination in any form,” Bloom said on the Assembly floor Aug. 30, urging colleagues to approve it.

“It’s been a long journey,” said Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), one of the bill’s co-authors, speaking on the Assembly floor in favor of the measure. “But with a smile on my face I can say today that Republicans and Democrats in the legislature have taken a historic step forward in the fight against prejudice.”

Proponents explain that the compromise avoids First Amendment issues raised by anti-BDS bills in other states.

“We carefully crafted this bill to not fall into any of those pits,” Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego) said while introducing the bill in the Senate.

Yet its opponents maintain the bill would be both ineffectual and unconstitutional. Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) was the only senator to vote against the measure.

But critics argue that it will not really add anything to the fight against BDS, that it is more declamatory than practical.

“Those standards already apply,” said Monning. “So we have a bill on the floor that seeks to affirm laws that already exist and people are held accountable for already.”

Nonetheless, pro-Israel groups welcomed the legislature’s action and that once governor Jerry Brown, Jr. signs it, as they expect he will, they will seek to make use of it.

“We have another tool in our toolbox” in the fight against BDS, said Shawn Evenhaim, chairman of the Israeli-American Coalition for Action (IAX).