On July 23 the NJ Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism, and Historic Preservation Committee held hearings on two anti-BDS measures, representing the NJ Legislature’s response to BDS efforts nationally and internationally, and passed the bills out of committee by a 4-0 vote.
The anti-BDS measures include S3044, which prohibits investment by the state of pension and annuity funds in companies that boycott Israel or Israeli businesses, and SJR81, a joint resolution that condemns BDS against Israel.
The measures were introduced by Sen. James Beach (D-Dist. 6) and Sen. Peter Barnes (D-Dist. 18), respectively.
The NJ State Association of Jewish Federations, the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and other NJ Jewish federations have been working together to support anti-BDS legislation at the state government level.
The BDS movement, opponents claim, is used as part of a global assault on Israel, challenging its right to exist as a sovereign, democratic, and Jewish state, and aims to enlist college campuses, academic associations, mainline Protestant churches, and socially responsible investing forums.
According to CRC chair Elliot Mathias, “BDS activism targets only Israel. While Israel is certainly not perfect, the problems in the Middle East are not Israel’s alone. The Palestinians are not blameless in the Middle East conflict. Their actions — including terrorism and indiscriminate rocket fire on civilians, refusing previous peace plans, and the failure to acknowledge Israel’s legitimate right to self-determination — have also led to the current difficult situation. But yet, BDS targets only Israel, throwing all nuance and balance out the window….”
State Association president Mark Levenson expressed gratitude to Beach and Barnes “for their leadership and initiative in moving forward with what they saw as a disturbing and harmful effort to isolate Israel from the family of nations through boycott, sanctions, and divestment.”
Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, president of the GMW federation, gave testimony at the hearing. “Closer to home,” she said, “anti-Israel activities have morphed insidiously and dangerously into blatant anti-Semitic activity, most recently on the campus of Kean University, where a swastika was spray-painted on a Jewish student’s door, a BDS battle at Princeton University, and the establishment of anti-Israel Apartheid Week at Rutgers University and Montclair State University….”
According to State Association executive director Jacob Toporek, the goal is to seek a full vote and final approval when the State Senate returns on Aug. 13.
Also providing testimony to the committee were Jason Shames, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern NJ; Josh Pruzansky, NJ regional director of the Orthodox Union; and Rabbi Avi Richler, legislative director of the Rabbinical College of America and NJ Chabad Affiliates.
NJ Assembly members Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Dist. 37) and Gary Schaer (D-Dist. 36) have introduced AJR122, the Assembly companion to the joint resolution. Huttle is also the prime sponsor of the Assembly measure A4665, the companion to S3044.