Iowa General Assembly passes anti-BDS legislation
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Iowa General Assembly passes anti-BDS legislation

Approved 38-9 in state senate, bill is third in US to prohibit state investment and procurement with companies that boycott Israel

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: 'Boycott Israel' billboard near Chicago's Logan Airport, 2016 (screen capture: CBS)
Illustrative: 'Boycott Israel' billboard near Chicago's Logan Airport, 2016 (screen capture: CBS)

WASHINGTON — Iowa’s senate 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 38-9, after advancing through the Iowa House of Representatives by a vote of 70-24 in February, and now moves to the office of Iowa’s Republican governor, Terry Branstad, who must decide whether to sign it into law.

In the last year, several states have taken up similar forms of legislation to address efforts to boycott or divest from the Jewish state, but only two others — Florida and Arizona — have gone as far as Iowa to ban both state investment and procurement in companies that engage in a politically motivated boycott of Israel.

Jacob Millner, a senior policy analyst for the advocacy group The Israel Project, said the Iowa bill enjoyed bipartisan support that ensured it made it through the partisan-divided statehouse.

“It passed a GOP-controlled House of Representatives and Democrat controlled Senate,” he told The Times of Israel.

The legislation also received criticism from opponents who called it an attempt to suppress or limit the speech rights of those critical of Israel.

Joseph Sabag, deputy director of the Israel Allies Foundation advocacy group, countered by saying the regulations wouldn’t prohibit companies from engaging in a boycott if they chose to, but enables the state to exercise its discretion in how it spends taxpayer money.

“This law does not say a group cannot boycott Israel or advocate for boycotting Israel. It does not penalize any private party’s exercise of free speech,” Sabag said in a statement released by the Israel advocacy group StandWithUS, which also lobbied for the bill’s passage. “What this law does say is that the legislature controls taxpayer money, and it decides where to invest it and where to spend it.”

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