Sun Sentinel Broward Edition
Legislature moving to oppose anti-Israel boycotts
TALLAHASSEE— The Florida Legislature is set to ban the state from doing business with any company that boycotts Israel. But it’s unclear how many businesses that would affect, if any.
The bill is a response to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement, which calls for boycotts of Israeli products and companies. Some European companies have signed on, but the bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne, was unaware of any companies in Florida that were
“This ismore of a preventative measure,” said state Rep. Jared Moskowitz, DCoral Springs, a co-sponsor of the bill, which passed unanimously through the House Appropriations CommitteeWednesday.
It would require companies entering into state contracts to state they do not support the movement.
“If you want to boycott Israel, then Florida has no business doing business with you,” Workman told the committee.
A similar bill has already unanimously passed the Senate.
A separate proposal that expresses the Legislature’s disapproval with the BDS movement is also on the move through both chambers. It passed its final committee hearing in the Senate Wednesday and will now move to the floor. On the House side, it passed its first of two committee hearings Wednesday aswell.
“The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement needs to be stopped,” said stateRep. Lori Berman, D-Lantana, the bill’s House sponsor. “We don’t support this movement; we support the state of Israel.”
Although it started about a decade ago, the BDS movementhas gained widespread notoriety in the last year. In November, the European Union voted to require products made in Israeli territory outside its 1967 borders — including East Jerusalem and the West Bank— not be labeled “Made in Israel.”
Closer to home, the student government of the University of South Florida last week agreed in a nonbinding vote to encourage the university not to invest in companies that do business with Israel. The administration has not done so.
AtWednesday’s committee meeting, several students called the BDS movement a human rights issue due to Israeli treatment of Palestinians. They also argued the billwas a barrier to free speech. The committee rejected that argument.
“This bill does not say you cannot boycott Israel,” Moskowitz said. “What this bill does say is that we control taxpayer money, we control where taxpayer money goes and if we don’t want tax money to go somewhere, we have every right to do so.”
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