On Monday, California State Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) introduced two pieces of legislation to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the State of Israel.
Allen’s Assembly Bills 1551 and 1552 aim to ensure that the Golden State does not contract with businesses that engage in boycotts based on race, color, religion, gender, and/or nationality.
“I think the message is clear [and] that there’s real pushback against this fringe movement by a handful of extremists that are trying to demonize and discriminate against Israel,” Allen told Breitbart News on Wednesday.
“States such as ours are realizing really quickly that Israel is one of our vital trading partners and that Israel needs to be protected.”
On his Facebook page, Allen posted a picture of the California flag alongside the flag of Israel and wrote: “I look forward to ensuring California continues to stand with Israel as a vital ally and economic partner.”
AB 1551, known as the California-Israel Commerce Protection Act, requires that California’s pension systems divest itself from any companies that boycott Israel. The pensions hold approximately $500 billion. which is divided among $283 billion for the state’s public employees retirement system (CalPERS) and another $188 billion for retiring teachers with the Golden State (CalSTRS).
Allen told Breitbart News that AB 1551 essentially updates a statute that has already been implemented to address the Arab League Boycott of Israel. In 1977, Congress made it illegal for U.S. companies to cooperate with the Arab League boycott, threatening those who engaged in such activity with civil and criminal penalties.
AB 1552, which deals with public contracts, state and local agencies and businesses, will ensure that the state and its agencies cannot contract with any companies engaging in discrimination of any kind. Allen told Breitbart News that the BDS movement exemplifies this.
Beyond the BDS movement’s inherent discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, race and nationality, Allen said that BDS “directly contradicts the values of California citizens.” In a press release issued on Monday, Allen wrote that “[i]n 2014, California exported over $2.3 billion in goods to Israel, making it the state’s 18th largest export destination. Manufactured commodities are the largest export category for California, with over $1.6 billion, representing nearly 70 percent of all exports to Israel.”
“The concept of California and Israel being strategic partners is being reinforced not just by the California Legislature but by multiple governors across the aisle.” Allen recalled a March 2014 meeting between Governor Jerry Brown and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which a pro-business pact was signed to expand Israel-California cooperation in the areas of cybersecurity, biotechnology, health, water conservation and effective strategies to fight the drought. “California doesn’t need to have a water problem,” Netanyahu reportedly said at the time. “Israel has no water problems because we are the number one recyclers of waste water, we stop water leaks, we use drip irrigation and desalination.”
Allen noted that Israel’s position as the global leader in desalinization, among other things, is indicative that the effectiveness of the small yet powerful democratic nation’s technology “has been put to great use in California. For example, the City of Irvine has been a pioneer in using recycled wastewater for landscape irrigation,” specifically with the use of purple pipes that are clearly marked to indicate that recycled water is being used.
Concrete action against supporters of the global BDS movement, such as what Allen is putting forward, started in South Carolina, and the Illinois legislature followed suit soon after. State legislatures in Tennessee, New York, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Florida have also passed resolutions condemning the BDS movement, and Florida is also working to implement the changes reflected in both of Allen’s bills.
In Florida, a new grass roots movement has also emerged to combat the BDS movement. Aptly named the BIS movement (Buy, Invest and Support), the campaign’s executive director, Joseph Waks, told Breitbart News that “our grass root movement encourages, supports and educates businesses at the local, state, national and international levels that it is within our moral obligation to do business in and with Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East.”
Waks said the BIS movement seeks both to bring back money that has been divested from Israel and to invest even more into it and ensure that business there will “flourish.”
The BDS movement has targeted Israel since 2005 and its efforts have been widespread throughout California, specifically within the University of California (UC) school system, which has also seen a rise in antisemitism on college campuses.
Allen explained that these two bills will coincide with the federal update and extension of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (EAA) and also the Ribicoff Amendments to Tax Reform Act of 1976 (TRA), both of which set the precedent for discouraging the boycott of Israel and which bring with them decades of federal precedent.
Both bills now require passage in the Assembly and the State Senate before heading to Gov. Brown’s desk for signature.
In the meantime, Allen said, “I would encourage everyone that is passionate about this issue and feels strongly that California should not engage in business with companies that boycott Israel to get on their phones and write letters to their legislature to support both AB 1551 and AB 1552.”