California Legislature Passes Anti-BDS Law

Pro Palestinian demonstrators march through central London on July 25, 2014 in London, England.
Dan Kitwood/Getty

California’s State Assembly has voted nearly unanimously, save one vote in both the State Assembly and Senate, to send the Golden State’s first-ever anti-“boycott, divestment and sanctions “(BDS) bill to Gov. Jerry Brown, who will need to decide whether to sign or veto it by September’s end.

AB 2844 overwhelmingly passed with bipartisan support in the Assembly with a 69-1 in favor, less than one week after passing the Senate 34-1.

In a press release issued Tuesday, Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica), who co-authored AB 2844 with Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) said:

The action today by the Legislature sends another strong message that California does not tolerate discrimination, hate, or bigotry. It is a fact that the ultimate goal of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is to convince California companies to not do business with Israel and thereby undermine the economy and government of Israel and replace the world’s only Jewish homeland and the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, with a single Palestinian State. This bill helps puts an end to that movement here in California.

BDS is a core element of a global strategy by anti-Israel activists to isolate the Jewish state.

“The original intent of the legislation that I proposed back in January has been preserved with this final version of AB2844,” Allen told Breitbart News. “Simply put, that if a company chooses to boycott the State of Israel, California will not do business with them. If a company wants to contract with California, it cannot discriminate against or boycott Israel.”

Allen added: “I think legislators on both sides of the aisle came to the realization that the BDS movement is discriminatory in nature and at its core is antisemitic, and California won’t support that with taxpayer dollars.

“We have a long-standing, historical precedent of protecting against discrimination in California.”

ABC 2844 was originally named the “California Combating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel Act of 2016,” but by June was renamed to the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Recognized Sovereign Nations or Peoples,” omitting all mentions of the State of Israel in the title.

While the original intent of the bill was to prohibit California from contracting with businesses that engage in boycotts against Israel, the bill’s language was changed so that companies must now prove that they will not violate California’s civil rights law, in general, by boycotting a nation that is recognized by the United States. However, Israel is the only nation that is mentioned by name in the bill.

Asm. Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) chair of the Assembly’s Accountability Committee, was among several Democrats who had initially opposed AB 2844, and had even recommended rejecting the measure altogether, but who ultimately voted in favor of the measure on Tuesday.

Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) was the only one in the Senate to vote against AB 2844, and Assemblyman Mark Stone (D-Monterey) was the only person in the Assembly. Monning told the Jewish Journal, “Those standards already apply,” referring to the anti-discrimination measures proposed by the bill. “So we have a bill on the floor that seeks to affirm laws that already exist and people are held accountable for already.”

Allen noted: “Some people wanted to cite First Amendment concerns. It is important to note that AB2844 in no way restricts free speech. Individuals are free to say whatever they choose, but California has the right to chose who they do business with.” Allen, who is an attorney, explained that the principle behind the new law harkens back to existing California laws, namely the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.

Under the Unruh Act, citizens are entitled to full and equal privileges and services in all business establishments, regardless of sex, race, religion or national origin. Similarly, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act safeguards the rights and opportunity of all people to seek and hold employment without discrimination based on race, creed, national origin.

A Chicago-based organization that is opposed to anti-BDS measures nationwide, called Palestine Legal, also used the “free speech” argument in an attempt to discredit support for the Jewish State. Rahul Saksena, a Palestine Legal staff attorney, said in an email to the Jewish Journal that “The sponsors have jumped through hoops and hurdles trying to amend the bill to make it ‘less unconstitutional.’ … But you can’t fix a fundamentally flawed bill.”

In sum, Allen said, “Friends of Israel around the world should celebrate the largest state in the nation has now passed anti-BDS legislation, which should hopefully pave the way for more states to join the fight against bigotry and prejudice.”

He added, “A lot can get done when you don’t worry about whose name is on the bill.”

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz