The New Jersey Assembly’s Local and State Government Committee gave unanimous approval to SJR81, and its Assembly companion, AJR 122, joint resolutions condemning boycotts of Israel and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.
In testimony Nov. 16 urging the committee to vote in favor of the measures, Mark Levenson, president of the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations and a partner at the Newark law firm of Sills Cummis Gross, said, “In view of the fact that New Jersey is one of Israel’s largest trading partners — nation or state — actions such as boycotts that seek to weaken Israel economically are antithetical to the interests of New Jersey.”
The state, continued Levenson, “has strong economic, scientific, educational, and cultural ties with Israel, which for many years have brought our citizens together and, through trade, bring jobs and other benefits to the citizens” of New Jersey.
The State Association is working with key members of the Legislature and Jewish federation and community leaders in an effort to secure full General Assembly endorsement.
Also testifying at the committee hearing was Jason Shames, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern NJ. “BDS represents a strategic threat to the State of Israel when its followers promote the de-legitimization and elimination” of the state, Shames said.
Although SJR81 has already been acted upon in the Senate, receiving a 31-0 vote, the Assembly must act on the Senate and Assembly measures in the lame-duck session, which ends Jan. 12. Otherwise, the legislation dies and must be reintroduced in the new session in January.
“Israel today faces an intensive and increasingly sophisticated global assault on its right to exist as a sovereign, democratic, and Jewish state…,” said Melanie Roth Gorelick, director of the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ. This attack is “largely accomplished through the well-funded campaign of delegitimization that utilizes BDS…to brand Israel as a pariah nation and isolate it from the international community.”
State Association executive director Jacob Toporek applauded committee chair Linda Stender (D-Dist. 22) and the prime sponsors of the resolutions, Senator Peter Barnes (D-Dist. 18) and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Dist. 37) for strongly addressing the community’s concern over efforts to boycott Israel. “The legislature’s support via these resolutions is recognition of New Jersey’s long-standing friendship with Israel,” Toporek said, and further affirmation “that we should stand by our friends and oppose boycotts and any other effort seeking to deny Israel the right to exist as a Jewish state.”