On Friday, June 16, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed an anti-BDS bill barring state agencies from entering into contracts with individuals or companies that boycott Israel. The bill, HB 2409, first passed the Kansas Senate on Wednesday, June 7 in a 39 to 3 vote before passing the state’s House hours later by a vote of 99 to 13. In signing the bill, Kansas follows in the footsteps of many other states, including Texas and Nevada which have both passed similar anti-BDS legislation within the past month.
Although supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement claim that the primary motive of the movement is “merely to pressure Israel towards a two-state solution,” in actuality, the BDS campaign delegitimizes the existence of a Jewish state by calling for its destruction. According to the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism, “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, and denying Israel the right to exist” are examples of anti-Semitic behavior.
The bill follows calls from the Kansas Department of Commerce in March to maintain trade relations with the country. According to the department, in 2016 Kansas exported $56,681,800 in total commodities to Israel and imported $83,650,853 from the country. The Department stated in its report to the House General Government Budget Committee that “any company openly boycotting Israel and its products, is openly boycotting a Kansas trade partner and ally.” The bill then defines ‘boycott’ as “engaging in a refusal to deal, terminating business activities or performing other actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with persons or entities doing business in Israel…”
Gov. Brownback, elected in 2011, has shown longstanding support for the state of Israel. As senator from 1996-2011, Mr. Brownback worked to raise awareness of anti-Semitism, writing in the Jewish Press that he stands with Israel, “We are with you as your friends as a wave of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric is once again on the rise.” The current bill serves as a testament to his work to promote tolerance in his home state.