Last month, the New Jersey General Assembly in an overwhelming 69-3 vote passed legislation prohibiting the investment of state pension and annuity funds in to companies that boycott Israel or Israeli businesses. A similar bill had passed through the state Senate in a unanimous 39-0 vote in May.
According to the legislation, the state’s $71 billion pension fund provides coverage for about 800,000 current and retired public employees. Under the bill, the state would have 120 days after its passage to identify companies that violate the new prohibition. It would then have an additional 24 months to withdraw investment or divest. However, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the state Treasury Department is not aware of any companies that the pension fund is invested in that would violate the legislation.
The bill also stated that Israel and New Jersey annually trade more than $1.3 billion in goods.
The legislation noted that, “It is important to the economic well-being of New Jersey that persons or entities conducting commercial trade and doing business in the State do not engage in boycotts of a legitimate and viable partner with whom New Jersey can enjoy open trade contracting,” and went on to say, “Therefore, it is in the best interest of this State that a statutory prohibition be enacted to prohibit the investment of public employee retirement funds in companies boycotting Israel.”
One of the bipartisan bill’s primary sponsors, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D., Bergen), also noted that the legislation aimed to maintain and strengthen New Jersey’s existing relationship with Israel.
Another one of the bill’s primary sponsors, Assemblyman Chris Brown, (R-Atlantic) commented, “We have no greater ally in the Middle East than Israel, and it’s in America’s economic and security interest to make sure Israel remains strong and stable.”
Brown, who participated in a Federation Mission to Israel for legislators earlier this year, went on to state, “From what I‘ve learned, the BDS movement is rooted in hate, and not truly motivated to help the peace effort,” noting that, “An economically strong Israel is the only way to ensure stability and peace for both Israelis and Palestinians.”
Senator James Beach (D-Camden), who also visited Israel earlier this year with 14 fellow lawmakers on a study mission that was sponsored by the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations, sponsored the bill in the Senate. He commented, “New Jersey has a long history of friendship with Israel, and any efforts to boycott Israeli goods, products and businesses are not only contrary to our values but are discriminatory and ill-intentioned.” He went on to say “We remain committed to standing against these practices, and banning investments in companies that engage in these activities is the right course of action.”
Governor Chris Christie is expected to sign the bill into law.
With the additions of New Jersey and Rhode Island this summer, at least other 12 states have passed anti-BDS legislation. It was reported that, in total, about 21 other states have taken up anti-BDS legislation.