Governor Terry Branstad held a statehouse ceremony this morning to praise the legislature’s action on a pro-Israeli bill. The legislature passed a bill that will ban any direct state investment in companies that boycott Israel.
“I just think it’s wrong to be boycotting our friend and ally Israel,” Branstad says.
There are no U.S. companies boycotting Israel, but there’s a global movement seeking to put economic pressure on Israel through boycotts. The goals of the movement are to get Israel to exit territory it has occupied for decades and secure new rights for Palestinians. Representative Quentin Stanerson, a Republican from Center Point, says the bill also forbids state agencies from signing contracts with any foreign company that is part of the boycott,
“The ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ Movement’ or ‘BDS’ is the formal name given to the economic and political warfare components of this campaign,” Stanerson says. “More specifically, BDS refers to the tactics employed to discriminate against Israelis, Jews, their trade partners and supporters.”
Representative John Kooiker, a Republican from Hull, voted no.
“We do not even know exactly who is behind the ‘BDS’ effort and, to me, it is trying to be more symbolic than it is to be substance,” he says.
Senator Jeff Danielson, a Democrat from Cedar Falls who voted for the bill, says the U.S. supports its friends, like Israel.
“This policy is right for Iowa,” Danielson says. “It’s right for America and we don’t have to divide ourselves over support Israel and also supporting human rights. There are other methods to achieve those goals.”
Iowa is the ninth state to pass this sort of legislation.
Some critics argued it will cost too much for state officials to figure out which foreign companies the state is doing business with might be boycotting Israel. Senator Danielson says it will cost just “a couple thousand dollars” to search all the state’s contracts and investments and cancel any deals that involve companies that are participating in the international boycott against Israel. This kind of review was done recently when the state banned investments in companies doing business with Iran and Sudan.
In the 1980s, the State of Iowa joined many other states in demanding “divestment” from companies in South Africa — to try to force an end to racial segregation in the country.