Two Republican state lawmakers in Wisconsin last week introduced legislation to prohibit businesses from engaging in boycotts of Israel as a condition of any state contract.
In recent years, more than 20 U.S. states have passed legislation condemning BDS or prohibiting government business with entities that boycott Israel, with additional states — including Wisconsin — expected to follow before the end of the year.
Released by State Sen. Leah Vukmir and State Rep. Dale Kooyenga, the bill is currently being circulated among both chambers for co-sponsors. The measure states that it “prohibits any state agency or other body in state government and any local governmental unit, including a special purpose district, from adopting a rule, ordinance, policy, or procedure that involves the state agency or local governmental unit in a boycott of Israel or a person doing business in Israel or in a territory under Israeli jurisdiction.”
It also “requires contracts for materials, supplies, equipment, and services between state purchasing agents and nongovernmental entities to include a provision that the nongovernmental entity is not currently participating, or will not for the duration of the contract participate, in a prohibited boycott.”
Vukmir said in a statement, “Boycotts of Israel must be fought because they do not just attack the Jewish state. This propaganda campaign is also the basis for newly emboldened and destructive anti-Semitic attitudes.”
“Israel stands as the only democracy in the Middle East, offering a voice not only to the Jewish citizens of Israel, but to all citizens of Israel regardless of their age, race, sex or religion,” Kooyenga said. “This bill demonstrates that Wisconsin is serious about standing with Israel, as our republic has since Israel’s founding nearly 70 years ago.”
Peggy Shapiro, Midwest director of the pro-Israel education organization StandWithUs, recalled that she “met wit Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisc almost two years ago, and she was adamant about protecting Israel — Wisconsin’s relationship, and making sure … taxpayers were not complicit in acts of anti-Semitism.”
“Today, StandWithUs is very proud to see Wisconsin engage in a bipartisan rejection of anti-Semitism and discrimination against Israel,” Shapiro told the Haym Salomon Center.
Joining StandWithUs and other groups to advance anti-BDS legislation in Wisconsin is the self-described largest pro-Israel organization in the country, Christians United for Israel (CUFI). With the backing of its nearly 3.6 million members, the group’s lobbying arm, the CUFI Action Fund, said it played a significant role in bringing this issue to the forefront.
“CUFI members across the country are fed up with BDS and excited to act to stop it,” said CUFI board member David Brog. “In Wisconsin, our local leaders were able to join with the Jewish community to make a powerful pro-Israel team and secure the introduction of a strong anti-BDS bill. We look forward to working with our partners to ensure that this bill becomes law and Wisconsin becomes the 23rd state to stand up to BDS.”
The BDS campaign against the Jewish state began in 2005, claiming to be a form of “non-violent” resistance against Israel’s so-called “settler colonialism, apartheid and occupation over the Palestinian people.”
A study conducted last year by the anti-Semitism watchdog group AMCHA Initiative examined more than 100 public and private colleges and universities from January to June of 2016. It found that 287 anti-Semitic incidents occurred at 64 schools, compared to 198 occurrences during the same period the previous year, reflecting a 45-percent increase.
The study revealed a rapidly growing correlation between anti-Semitism and BDS activism.
Paul Miller is president of the Haym Salomon Center news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on Twitter: @pauliespoint and @salomoncenter.