A first-of-its-kind bill opposing boycotts of Israel, introduced by Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), has been held up in California’s Democratic-controlled state legislature for nearly three months. Now, the state’s Jewish Caucus has introduced a highly similar bill by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica).
Allen’s AB 1552 and Bloom’s AB 2844, arguably mirror images of each other both target an anti-Israel movement called BDS — “boycott, divestment and sanctions. They will each now face the test of California’s political system — a state where the color blue reigns supreme.
Allen’s bill, AB 1552, would require California to stop doing business with companies that participate in a boycott against the Jewish state, which is California’s 18th-largest export partner, having exported over $2.3 billion in goods to Israel in 2014 alone. If passed, it would become the first bill of its kind in the Golden State.
Breitbart News spoke with Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) and Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) this week about the tension brewing between the men as each one seeks to push his bill.
“Let me start by saying that I think Richard Bloom’s a great guy and I think his heart’s in the right place,” Allen said. “He and I might not see eye to eye on a lot of the issues, whether it be taxing soda or kicking Shamu out of Seaworld. On this issue, we are completely aligned … I think, ultimately, we will all come together in true bipartisan fashion and work collectively and collaboratively to pass AB1552.”
Allen noted that “any effort to weaken AB 1552 is an effort to weaken California’s stand for Israel.” He also voiced his intention to “continue to be ready to move forward united with all legislators regardless of political, religious, or cultural affiliation to end BDS in California.” Allen is not Jewish, but has always prided himself on having tremendous support for what he describes as “the only true Democracy in the Middle East, Israel.”
Assemblyman Bloom, who is Jewish, said he believes his bill, AB 2844, has a better chance of passing due to large support he will receive from the Jewish Caucus. He said he “tried very hard to work with Mr. Allen. It didn’t work out between us and the best thing for me to do, to make sure the policy is implemented and successful, is to go back to the original plan and carry the legislation that would be carried out by the caucus.”
Bloom said that “when Mr. Allen made his announcement, he did not consult with us [the Jewish Caucus], so that became a very big problem from the get-go.” He added, “I think it’s quite natural that the Jewish community be in the lead. BDS affects us directly. BDS is not just anti-Israel, it’s anti-Jew.”
When asked why the language of his bill is almost identical to the language in Allen’s bill, Bloom said “the language is similar because he adopted language that I adopted for him.” Bloom said that Allen’s original bill was “different in a lot of significant aspects. He may have headed in the same direction, and I’m not tying to be critical. But there’s a story line that my bill’s no different than his bill. And in reality, the language that he had agreed to go with was language that I had recommend to him,” Bloom said.
“Rest assured,” Bloom continued, “in my bill the language is stronger than Mr. Allen’s bill and it will stay that way … I’m going to remain resolute and the Jewish Caucus will remain resolute on this bill.” Bloom noted that “the Jewish Caucus was formed four years ago. We were formed partly because we wanted to be in the best position to respond to BDS activity in the state of California.” He added, again: “It’s quite natural that the Jewish Caucus wants to take the lead on an issue like this.”
Allen said he had initially invited Bloom to be a co-author of his bill. Now, however, Bloom is inviting Allen to join in on his. “He’s more than welcome to become a co-author on the bill. Of course we welcome him to be a co-author,” Bloom said.
Dr. Joel Geiderman, Chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s California Division, issued a statement responding to opposition to Allen’s anti-BDS bill by the Jewish Caucus:
The RJC has supported Assemblyman Allen’s bill 1552 since the beginning and we expected that other pragmatic leaders would join him in opposing BDS. Instead, California Democrats so far have chosen petty partisan politics instead of doing the right thing. We hope the California Jewish Caucus will drop their opposition and stand with anti-BDS politicians across the state in passing AB 1552.
This week Assemblyman Sen. Jeff Stone (R-CA), the only Republican member of the 10-person Jewish Caucus, told Breitbart News he fears the caucus will water down the intention behind Allen’s bill — the same way he says they did with his own resolution for California to oppose the Iran deal.
Stone noted that the chairman of the caucus said he wouldn’t accept his bill in the form he presented itbecause he said the chairman saw Stone’s bill as “bashing our president.”
Stone continued: “Essentially, my three-page resolution turned into a half-page resolution by the time the caucus got through with it. That’s why we need to keep Travis Allen as the author of this bill because I want to make sure that the law has teeth … I don’t want to see it get neutered like my Iran deal [bill] got neutered. I know that Allen will keep the intent of the bill in tact.”
Allen’s bill cannot move forward unless the chairman of the Rules Committee, Assemblyman Richard S. Gordon (D-Menlo Park), allows it to do so.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.