Michigan Governor Signs Anti-BDS Bills into Law

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Michigan Governor Rick Snyder

On New Year’s Eve, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed two anti-BDS bills into law. The bipartisan legislation—previously bill HB 5821 sponsored by Reps. Al Pscholka, Mike Calton, Jeremy Moss, and Andy Schor, and bill HB 5822 sponsored by Rep. Robert Wittenberg—prohibits the state from hiring businesses that boycott individuals or public entities of a foreign nation.

The new law states that the Department of Management and Budget and all state agencies “may not enter into a contract with a person to acquire or dispose of supplies, services, or information technology unless the contract includes a representation that the person is not currently engaged in, and an agreement that the person will not engage in, the boycott of a person based in or doing business with a strategic partner.”

These measures, which are now Public Acts 526 and 527 of 2016, condemn national origin discrimination and thus the efforts of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS). In effect, the new legislation outlaws business relations between public entities of the state of Michigan and companies that practice BDS policies.

The Public Acts protect Michigan’s economy from the devastating effects of boycotting Israel. Michigan benefits from tens of millions of dollars in annual economic trade with Israeli entities and partners with commercial interests in Israel. Their trade encompasses some of the state’s most important economic sectors—namely, technology research and development, defense, and health sciences. The BDS effort to restrict trade with Israel would threaten the future prosperity of both Michigan and Israel, a danger which Public Acts 526-527 effectively mitigate.

The recent legislation sends a strong message that Michigan will not support the anti-Semitism and intolerance of campaigns like the BDS movement. It is not only an anti-BDS victory, but also a triumph against prejudice and the practice of holding Israel to a double standard.

Michigan’s efforts come in the wake of similar action from other states in recent months. Ohio passed an anti-BDS law in December, following legislation in Pennsylvania in November, California in September, New Jersey in August, and Rhode Island in June. Michigan joins awcwnrwwn other states in opposing BDS. This new legislation marks the rising tide of state governmental efforts against BDS and points to continued success of the anti-BDS movement.

The Second Bristol-Sheffield Hallam Colloquium on Contemporary Anti-Semitism

Videos from the Second Bristol-Sheffield Hallam Colloquium on Contemporary Anti-Semitism, chaired by Lesley Klaff and J.G. Campbell, are now available here.

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Heart of the Campus Building at Sheffield Hallam University

This past fall, LDB President and General Counsel Kenneth L. Marcus spoke at the Second Bristol-Sheffield Hallam Colloquium on Contemporary Anti-Semitism. The theme of the colloquium was “Anti-Semitism in the Media: The Old and The New.” Panelists spoke about a diversity of topics, ranging from anti-Semitic language in German liberal web discourse to Palestinian liberation theology as a medium for contemporary anti-Semitism.

Marcus presented a talk entitled “The Ideology of Jihadi Digital Mass Media,” in which he discussed the prevalence of anti-Semitism in online magazines of Jihadi organizations. Marcus explained how criticism of Jews—previously lumped together with criticism of Christians or Westerners in general—has grown more pointed, especially in Dabiq, an online periodical of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Jihadi mass media is featuring an increasingly specific stereotype of Jewish people. Their use of anti-Semitism, according to Marcus, serves four main functions: to market their organizations, inspire conversion, explain their worldview, and motivate action from their followers. Jihadi organizations, both those which appeal to the notion of a “near enemy” in Middle Eastern regimes, as well as those which oppose a “far enemy” in the United States and the West, seek to justify their global ambitions through a discriminatory perception of Jewish people.

The Second Bristol-Sheffield Hallam Colloquium on Contemporary Anti-Semitism is an annual joint venture between Bristol University’s Department of Religion & Theology and Sheffield Hallam University’s Helena Kennedy Centre for International Justice. Speakers are invited from the UK, Europe, Israel, and the United States to share their work and research on anti-Semitism in the modern world. At September’s colloquium, President Marcus was joined by numerous scholars and activists, including Ben Cohen, Director of Coalitions at the Israel Project; Peter Wells, Professor of Public Policy Analysis at Sheffield Hallam University; Sital Dhillon, Head of the Department for Law and Criminology at Sheffield Hallam University; and Bernard Harrison, Emeritus E.E. Ericksen Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah. The conference was held on September 13-15, 2016 at Sheffield Hallam University.

The Beginning of the End for BDS in Spain

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is being defeated and in perhaps the most surprising of nations – Spain. A country that topped the Anti-Defamation League’s 2015 anti-Semitism index in Western Europe, and the very place where a Catalan lawmaker demanded the head of Barcelona’s Jewish community be removed from the local government’s parliament for being “a foreign agent,” Spain has long been considered a BDS foothold.

BDS demonstration Spain

That is, until about 15 months ago when Ignacio Wenley Palacios Iglesias came onto the scene. A Jesuit lawyer specializing in nautical law, Mr. Iglesias first became involved by happenstance. Iglesias’s daughter was attending the Rototom Sun-Splash Music Festival, infamous for its initial banning of Jewish American singer/ songwriter Matisyahu in 2015. Matisyahu was asked to denounce Israel before being allowed to take part in the Festival, a demand not extended to any of the other artists performing. Matisyahu adamantly refused.  After massive international outcry, Matisyahu did perform, amongst a hostile crowd.

This event was given great attention at the time, and raised questions globally about the motives of BDS operatives and their deep entrenchment in the Spanish political system. For Iglesias, it was the catalyst which involved him in the fight against BDS.

Speaking to the Brandeis Center, Mr. Iglesias adamantly declared that he believes all boycotts of this nature to be unconstitutional. An expert in the Spanish constitution, Iglesias argues that such boycotts as have been imposed by state houses, city councils and universities around the country contradict the need for public offices to stay neutral and breach the civil liberties of various citizens, Jewish or not.

Supported by the The Lawfare Project’s legal fund as well as by ACOM in Spain, Iglesias has been fighting back through the very structures which first allowed this to take place, emphasizing and correcting the contradictions of the BDS through the court. At the time of our interview, Iglesias had spearheaded more than 40 legal rulings, injunctions and opinions against the Boycott Israel movements in Spain.

By fast tracking proceedings for the protection of civil liberties, Iglesias and his colleagues have won more than eight cases in which BDS has been declared illegal, three reversed judgements against previous BDS victories, and 11 injunctions against BDS whilst proceedings continue, something Iglesias categorizes as unprecedented.

This strategy, using the courts to uphold the law and constitution, has been widely successful across Spain, leading to the reimbursement of $107,000 to the Israeli University of Ariel, which had been boycotted by certain Spanish tertiary level institutions. Iglesias’s strategy has also led to a statement made by Spain’s Ministerio Fiscal (the Attorney General), who declared that the anti-Israel boycott of Gijon violates “the constitution as well as the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights.”

Certainly, the past week saw another of these victories,: the city of Santa Eulalia nullified the pro-BDS position it had taken up only moths before.

Iglesias is confident that this common sense approach, which underscores the illegality of BDS, and will and must work across Europe and the globe.

War By Other Means: Addressing the Climate on Campus

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The Student Panel sits at Harvard Law School during the conference on December 4, 2016. (From Left to right) Rezwan Haq (University of Central Florida), Kelsey Kimmes (CSU Long Beach), Misha Vilenchuck (Brandeis University), Kailee Jordan (San Francisco State University), and Jason Storch (Vassar College).

 

On Sunday, December 4, I had the pleasure of speaking at the CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) conference, “War by Other Means: Israel, BDS, and the Campus,” at Harvard Law School. In recent years, anti-Semitism has been on the rise throughout the country, and particularly on college campuses. Much of this anti- Semitism has taken on a new form, anti-Semitism “coded” as anti-Israelism. This conference addressed these very issues. Featured speakers included Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz, Cornell Law Professor William Jacobson, executive director of CAMERA, Andrea Levin, and co-founder and director of the AMCHA Initiative, Tammi Rossman-Benjamin.

The aim of the conference was to further understand what drives the growing and aggressive anti-Israel Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that has engulfed our campuses in the United States.

The BDS movement is a call to boycott all cultural, academic, and economic ties to Israel in an effort to strangle the country, until they are held accountable for alleged human rights violations against Palestinians. This movement portrays itself as a global human rights movement, however, as explained by Alan Dershowitz in a video message addressing the conference, “there is no BDS movement.” Movements, explains Dershowitz, are a global effort to hold accountable all countries that violate their terms of human rights abuses. BDS is an effort that solely focuses on Israel. Jordan, which is also a previous territory of the British Mandate of Palestine, doesn’t find it’s discriminatory citizenship laws toward Palestinians on the BDS’s movement’s agenda. He explains that If they were a movement for human rights accountability, Israel would be at the very bottom of their list. As a plethora of severe human rights violations are littered across the Middle East, the BDS movement against Israel has gained more visibility than others among college students.

Authors, lawyers, professors, academic professionals, activists, and students from Harvard – including students from the Harvard LDB Law Student Chapter — engaged in the discussion of campus climate for Jewish students today. Presentations included “Countering BDS on Campus” by Alan Dershowitz, “BDS Has A History” by Professor William Jacobson from Cornell University, “BDS and Campus Anti-Semitism” by AMCHA initiave’s Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, “Academic Freedom, Free Speech, and BDS: Advancing Viewpoint Diversity on Campus” by Professor Miriam Elman from Syracruse University, and “Answering SJP Propoganda” by Dr. Alex Safian.

On a panel along with other current and recent graduates, I shared my personal experiences as an Israel advocate while studying at San Francisco State University (SFSU), a campus with a great presence of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity. I spoke about Professors like Hatem Bazian and Rabab Abdulhadi, both of whom are active leaders of the BDS movement. Abdulhadi, a professor of ethnic studies at SFSU, used University tax-payer funds to finance a field trip for students to Palestinian territory to meet with Palestinian resistance fighters, whom of some were linked with US designated terrorist lists. She met with Leila Khaled, whom Professor Abdulhadi describes as “an icon in women’s liberation and an icon in liberations movements.” Leila Khaled was arrested in 1969 for hijacking an airplane in an act of terror, and she became a famous Palestinian icon for being the first woman to do so. I talked about how leaders of student groups and professors at my school have both gone under FBI investigation, including the former SFSU student Mohammad Hammad, who infamously posted a picture of himself holding a blade on social media, saying: “I seriously can not get over how much I love this blade. It is the sharpest thing I own and cuts through everything like butter and just holding it makes me want to stab an Israeli soldier.”

Students from Vassar College, Brandeis University, Cal State Long Beach, and University of Central Florida joined me to discuss their unique experiences on their given campus which brought them to advocate for Israel. Students, including a Muslim speaker who previously was a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) activist and transitioned into a strong Israel activist.

The reality of campus anti-semitism captivated the audience and motivated younger students and academic professionals to take initiative to validate Israel’s existence in the classroom and through advocacy. We were left reminded that although the climate can be challenging, the knowledge and motivation of future generations is in our in our hands, especially in a vital environment like a University campus.

The conference was closed with a statement by Andrea Levin, executive director of CAMERA, commenting on the very concept of War By Other Means: “We Will Win”.

For more updates and footage on the conference, visit CAMERA’s Facebook page here.

 

Summer and Post-Grad Job Opportunities with LDB!

Applications are now open for Summer 2017 Legal Clerkships and Post-Grad Civil Rights Legal Fellowships with the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law!

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Want to help LDB fight against campus anti-Semitism? Apply today! Applications are accepted on a rolling basis. Please send a copy of your resume to info@brandeiscenter.com.

Principal duties: Depending on skills, interest and abilities, duties are likely to include some combination of the following: researching substantive issues of federal and state law; analyzing legislative, regulatory, and other public policy issues; drafting legal memoranda and policy materials; assisting in the preparation of scholarly writings and practical guides; writing editorial submissions for news periodicals and blogs; assisting in the preparation of legal complaints, briefs, and related documents; and engaging in social media activities. Additional duties include interacting with complainants, witnesses, government officials, public interest advocates, other nonprofit organizations, university administrators, and/or the public; assisting in the preparation of conferences, workshops, lectures and symposia; preparing continuing legal education materials; and generally providing trusted legal and policy support.

Qualifications: The successful candidate must have excellent academic credentials from an ABA-accredited law school and maintain the highest standards of integrity; exhibit excellence in legal analysis, policy analysis and writing; and display, at all times and to all persons, a courteous, professional and cooperative attitude.

Location: Washington, D.C.

For more info on Post-Grad Fellowships, please click here, and for more info on Summer Clerkships, please click here.

Definition of anti-Semitism Is a Threat to No One but anti-Semites

This article was originally published in Ha’aretz on December 20, 2016, and is re-posted with permission from the author. Professor Dina Porat is the chief historian of Yad Vashem International Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, head of the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, and a member of the Louis D. Brandeis Center Academic Advisory Board. 

Opinion || Definition of anti-Semitism Is a Threat to No One but anti-Semites
How did the definition, that few (if any) were familiar with, turn into a hotly controversial, international issue? 

By Dina Porat

This week British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she would adopt “the working definition of anti-Semitism,” due to an increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents and because the battle against anti-Jewish prejudice is an important part of her efforts to build a fairer society. Last week that definition was discussed at a UNESCO conference in Paris, and later in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). At both conferences there was mention of the adoption (for the first time) of the definition by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in May in Romania. Each of the organizations has dozens of members.

Prof. Dina Porat

Prof. Dina Porat

At the UNESCO conference director general Irina Bokova and IHRA chairman Mihnea Constantinescu recommended adopting the definition, and expressed opposition, if indirect, to the decision approved in the organization’s plenum (and by the United Nations General Assembly), to the effect that Jerusalem’s history and present are exclusively Muslim. History must not be distorted, they said. We have to disseminate the factual information and preserve Jerusalem’s legacy as a city sacred to the three monotheistic religions.

A clause in the definition of anti-Semitism, which discusses denying the right of the Jewish people to self determination, made it possible to say at the conference that self determination means identity, history and roots, whose denial – in reference to the ancient Jewish people of all groups – is discrimination, if not anti-Semitism for its own sake.

Now the United States has introduced an initiative to approve a law calling for awareness of anti-Semitism – the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act – and a stormy discussion erupted on the subject, since until now adoption of the definition has not been legally binding. During the discussion there was mention of another adoption of a working definition of anti-Semitism, over a year ago, by the U.S. State Department. The European Union appointed a coordinator for the fight against anti-Semitism, Katharina von Schnurbein, who is promoting the use of the definition, and in Austria the justice minister recently announced that the definition will be part of the training of new judges and prosecutors in his country.

How did the definition, that few (if any) were familiar with, turn into a hotly controversial, international issue? This is a definition whose wording is a product of the joint work of organizations, scholars and activists, and the member countries – including both Jews and non-Jews. It’s a practical definition – one page in length – that does not go into the identity and motives of anti-Semites or a description of their image of Jews. It determines, in one sentence, that “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

This is followed by a series of examples: incitement to harm Jews, myths about their imaginary power, Holocaust denial and accusations of dual loyalty. In the end, examples of statements against the State of Israel that are defined as anti-Semitism, such as “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation, using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism, drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.”

A few years ago the definition was removed from the website of that EU monitoring body, perhaps for technical reasons, as its directors claim. Since then, leading personalities and organizations, Jewish and non-Jewish, have been trying hard to reinstitute it, and, as mentioned, lately there have been results. That may be happening due to the constant effort, and perhaps because in Europe, where fascist and totalitarian regimes flourished, the attitude towards legislation differs from that in the United States, and therefore a definition of anti-Semitism that serves as a basis for identifying activity, or for legislation to counter it, could open the door to a definition of Islamophobia, as well as hatred of Christians, blacks, Roma and other minorities.

The need for such tools has increased in light of the wave of refugees and immigrants arriving in Europe, one reason being that the rise of violent anti-Semitism makes it difficult for countries that must pay for the protection of Jewish communities: Disturbing the public order often begins with the Jews, but it has already been proven that it doesn’t end with them. The need for these tools may also arise because there is a growing realization that some anti-Zionist statements have made use of anti-Semitic motifs. Such statements have already been condemned by Pope Francis and French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. The working definition, according to scholar David Hirsh, does not pose a threat to anyone except anti-Semites.

Ohio Governor Kasich Signs Anti-BDS Law

On Monday, Ohio Governor and former Republican presidential candidate John Kasich signed an anti-Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) bill into law.

Ohio Governor John Kasich (Source: www.johnkasich.com/meet-john/)

The anti-BDS bill prohibits Ohio state agencies from contracting “with a company that is boycotting Israel or disinvesting from Israel.”

LDB Senior Staff Attorney Jennie Gross testified in front of the Ohio Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee in support of the bill on December 6, and LDB President and General Counsel Kenneth L. Marcus testified in support of the bill in front of the Ohio Assembly earlier this year.

Kasich is the seventeenth governor to sign an anti-BDS bill into law.

Britain to Adopt Definition of Anti-Semitism; U.S. Should Follow Suit

British PM Theresa May (Source: Conservative Friends of Israel)

British PM Theresa May (Source: Conservative Friends of Israel)

In an effort to combat rising numbers of anti-Semitic hate crimes and incitement, Britain is about to become one the first countries in the world to adopt an international definition of anti-Semitism.

On Monday, Dec. 12, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced in her keynote address at the Conservative Friends of Israel’s annual lunch, that her government is going to formally adopt the internationally-recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.

The Prime Minister asserted that anti-Semitism “has no place in politics and no place in this country.” Adopting the IHRA definition in a “ground-breaking step towards eradicating anti-Semitism,” May said, “[i]t means there will be one definition of anti-Semitism – in essence, language or behaviour that displays hatred towards Jews because they are Jews – and anyone guilty of that will be called out on it.”

Prime Minister May continued, “Let me be clear: it is unacceptable that there is anti-Semitism in this country. It is even worse that incidents are reportedly on the rise. And it is disgusting that these twisted views are being found in British politics.”

The 31 member nations of the IHRA officially adopted the “IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism” in May 2016. Importantly, the IHRA definition includes contemporary examples of anti-Semitism, and discusses anti-Semitism relative to Israel, stating that, “Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

Though British police already use a version of the IHRA’s definition, Prime Minister May’s announcement is excellent in that the country-wide adoption will now allow for the definition to be used by councils, universities and other public bodies in combatting anti-Semitism.

Prime Minister May’s decision should be emulated in the United States, where anti-Semitism unfortunately is also on the rise. The U.S. Department of State has a great definition of anti-Semitism – but it is not used domestically; rather it is only used for international monitoring. Adopting a definition of anti-Semitism such as the State Department’s is crucial for universities and government bodies to actually understand, and properly punish, the oldest hatred in the book, so that it can be reduced and removed it before it gets worse.

According to the 2015 FBI Hate Crime Report, 57% of religiously-motivated hate crimes in the U.S. were anti-Jewish. (It should be noted how huge that number is, especially taking into context that Jews make up only 2% of the population). On college campuses specifically, the Brandeis Center and Trinity College released an Anti-Semitism Report last February showing that 54% of Jewish college students had experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism. These numbers are shockingly high, and according to recent reports by organizations such as the AMCHA Initiative, likely rising.

Earlier this month, U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-SC) and Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the bipartisan Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016, which passed the Senate 99-0. This landmark bill importantly states that the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism has been a valuable tool “to help identify contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism, and include useful examples of discriminatory anti-Israel conduct that crosses the line into anti-Semitism,” and that “[a]wareness of this definition of anti-Semitism will increase understanding of the parameters of contemporary anti-Jewish conduct and will assist the Department of Education in determining whether an investigation of anti-Semitism under title VI is warranted.”

The proposed legislation, which the House will be voting on in the next legislative session (which begins in January), would adopt the primary public policy recommendation of LDB President and General Counsel Kenneth L. Marcus’s new book, “The Definition of Anti-Semitism” (Oxford University Press: 2015). Marcus explained, “For American civil rights enforcement agencies, the way forward is clear. Whatever else they may do to address resurgent anti-Semitism, the first step should be to adopt the State Department’s definition.”

Update: More Good News from Ohio

The anti-Semitic Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel suffered yet another loss this week.

Yesterday, LDB Senior Staff Attorney Jennie Gross testified in front of the Ohio Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee in support of Ohio’s anti-BDS bill, H.B. No. 476, “to prohibit a state agency from contracting with a company that is boycotting Israel or disinvesting from Israel.” Today, the committee passed the bill with a wide margin of 9-2.

First introduced by Ohio Assembly Representative Kirk Schuring, H.B. No. 476 passed the Ohio Assembly on November 29, by an overwhelming margin of 89 to 13.  LDB President and General Counsel Kenneth L. Marcus had testified in support of the bill in front of the Ohio Assembly earlier this year.

Following today’s victory, the bill now moves to the full Senate for a floor vote, and then it will go back to the House for a concurrence. If passed, Ohio will become the 16th state to join the legislative battle against BDS.

LDB Testifies Before Ohio Assembly in Support of anti-BDS Legislation

On Tuesday, December 6, I testified in front of the Ohio Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee in support of Ohio’s anti-BDS bill, H.B. No. 476, “to prohibit a state agency from contracting with a company that is boycotting Israel or disinvesting from Israel.”

The bill is a very important response to the anti-Semitic Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.  First introduced by Ohio Assembly Representative Kirk Schuring, H.B. No. 476 passed the Ohio Assembly on November 29, 2016, by an overwhelming margin of 89 to 13.  LDB President and General Counsel Kenneth L. Marcus testified in front of the Ohio Assembly in support of the bill last summer.

I am grateful for the opportunity to explain the urgent need to pass anti-BDS legislation in response to resurgent anti-Semitism in the U.S. and throughout the world. Anti-Semitism is on the rise: the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry reports a 38% increase in anti-Semitic incidents of violence, direct threats, and major acts of vandalism worldwide in 2014.  In the U.S., the Brandeis Center and Trinity College co-published research showing that 54% of Jewish students on 55 campuses reported experiencing or witnessing anti-Semitism during one half of the 2013-2014 academic year alone. These numbers appear to only be getting worse.

My testimony seeks to explain how BDS, at its core, is an anti-Semitic movement modeled in the tradition of the Nazi and Arab League boycotts of the 1900’s.  Although BDS purports to be a human rights movement, it does not act like one.  Like its Nazi and Arab League predecessors, which also used the rhetoric of their times to draw support for anti-Jewish boycotts, the BDS movement seeks to demonize Jewish people, and delegitimize the state of Israel.

The proposed legislation would prohibit Ohio state agencies from contracting with companies that boycott or disinvest from Israel, and will have a binding impact on Ohio government contractors. Unlike other state legislation, however, the Ohio bill would not also prohibit public funds from investing in companies that boycott Israel.