TEL AVIV – In an unprecedented move, Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to bar companies from doing business with the state if they boycott Israel or its settlements, the Jerusalem Post reported.
The Illinois Investment Policy board on Friday approved a list of 11 entities to be included in the ban. Some of the companies have pulled money out of Israeli businesses that operate in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, but have not boycotted Israel within its 1967 lines.
According to the Post, at least two of the entities have said their disinvestment from Israel in recent years was based on commercial, not political calculations.
The Illinois law passed last year bans any business deals with companies that boycott Israeli operations in territories controlled by the Jewish state.
“Today’s actions were truly historic and will lead the way for the dozens of other states following Illinois’ lead,” a senior official in the administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican who championed the bipartisan legislation, said.
More than 20 states are considering similar bills or have passed laws against companies that adhere to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Most of those states only penalize companies that boycott Israel; though nine states, like Illinois, have passed or are considering passing laws that extend the penalties to entities that boycott Israeli businesses operating in the West Bank.
Included on the Illinois list is Karsten Farms, a South African importer that divested from an Israeli dates exporter that listed a West Bank farm among its suppliers. Also on the list is the ASN Bank of the Netherlands, which divested from a company building Jerusalem’s light rail but remains invested in at least one company, Electrocomponents of Britain, which is active inside Israel’s 1967 borders.
A number of European banks like ASN claim that they divested from Israel on ethical grounds. Another such bank, Danske Bank of Denmark, refuses to invest in Israeli companies that operate in the West Bank.
Swedish bank Nordea, which is also listed, debated some years ago whether to disinvest from partner banks in Israel that operated in the West Bank. The bank ultimately decided its investments were separate from the Israeli banks’ West Bank activity and the partnerships remained in place.
GS4, a major British security firm, and Dexia Bank of Belgium, two more of the entities listed, sold off their Israeli affiliates. Although BDS activists claimed victory on both counts, the companies said the sell-offs were part of broader divestments made only for commercial reasons.