Florida legislature passes anti-BDS bill

Approved 112-2, measure is the ‘strongest anti-BDS legislation to date,’ says Israel advocacy group

Protesters urging a boycott against Israel in Melbourne, file photo (CC-BY SA Takver/Wikimedia Commons)
Protesters urging a boycott against Israel in Melbourne, file photo (CC-BY SA Takver/Wikimedia Commons)

WASHINGTON — Florida’s Senate overwhelmingly passed a measure Wednesday aimed to deter corporate entities from participating in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

The bill passed by a vote of 112-2, and now moves to the office of Florida Governor Rick Scott, who must decide whether to sign it into law.

In the last year, several other states have taken up similar legislation, such as Illinois and South Carolina. Illinois has targeted BDS activities through investment — prohibiting state investment in entities that boycott Israel or Israeli companies. South Carolina has done the same through procurement — banning the state from contracting with entities that engage in Israel boycotts.

The Florida bill is the strongest of any anti-BDS measure passed through a state legislature, according to Peggy Shapiro, the Midwest director of Israel advocacy group StandWithUs, who lobbied for the bill, because it targets BDS activities through banning both state investment and procurement in such entities.

While the bill received near unanimous support in the Florida Senate, critics cited it as an attempt to suppress or limit speech rights for those critical of Israel.

Shapiro countered that it would merely allow the state of Florida to exercise its discretion in choosing what kinds of companies it spends taxpayer money on.

“If one group of people write a textbook and another group writes a textbook, they are both able to express their speech and write the book,” she told The Times of Israel. “But the state of Florida can buy the book from whoever it wants.”

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