ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 150

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New Hampshire governor bans state investments in companies that boycott Israel

Chris Sununu signs executive order combating BDS movement, joining dozens of other US states that have passed similar legislation

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu takes part in a panel discussion during a Republican Governors Association conference on November 15, 2022, in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu takes part in a panel discussion during a Republican Governors Association conference on November 15, 2022, in Orlando, Florida. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu on Thursday signed an order banning state offices from investing in companies that participate in the anti-Israel boycott movement, joining dozens of other US states that have passed similar legislation.

Sununu, a Republican, signed the executive order at an event in the state capital Concord with Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan and Consul General to New England Meron Reuben.

“New Hampshire and Israel have experienced decades of successful exchange of commerce, culture, technology and tourism,” Sununu said in a statement. “New Hampshire will not tolerate antisemitism, and we are taking significant steps at the state level to prohibit discriminatory boycotts.”

The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a flash point of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in the US and other countries. Supporters say BDS is a non-violent movement for Palestinian independence, but Israel and its supporters say the campaign aims to delegitimize the entirety of the Jewish state and seeks its destruction, and it has been condemned by many of Israel’s supporters as antisemitic.

Sununu’s executive order bans New Hampshire executive branch entities —  covering an array of state agencies — from boycotting Israel, investing in any company that boycotts the Jewish state, or contracting with such a company.

The state agencies must also inform any company they contract with of the anti-BDS policies.

The text of the bill estimated that trade between Israel and New Hampshire has amounted to over $1 billion since 1996.

New Hampshire state lawmakers introduced separate anti-BDS legislation to the state House in January.

Erdan said Sununu’s bill was a counterweight to the UN’s investigatory commission of inquiry against Israel, which has criticized anti-BDS legislation by US states as infringing on free speech.

“We must boycott our boycotters and delegitimize our delegitimizers. And I have seen firsthand just how effective such measures are,” Erdan said.

The American Jewish Committee applauded Sununu’s executive order, saying, “Americans around the US and across the political spectrum stand with Israel.”

According to the committee, 37 states, including New Hampshire, have passed anti-BDS legislation.

The Israeli-American Coalition for Action, the sister advocacy organization of the Israeli-American Council, applauded the move as “standing up against national origin discrimination and defending the deep cultural and commercial ties between Israel and New Hampshire.”

“This executive order protects the freedom and liberty of New Hampshire businesses from the coercion and bullying tactics of the BDS hate movement,” said the group’s chairman, Shawn Evenhaim.

Several New Hampshire companies receive US foreign military financing contracts for Israel, including Milpower Source and Sponge-Jet, Inc., according to the coalition.

Corporate investments have increasingly become a weapon in the Israeli-Palestinian proxy battleground in the US.

States withdrew hundreds of millions in investments from Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, after the ice cream maker attempted to prevent its Israeli licensee from selling its products in West Bank settlements in 2021. Due to Israeli laws that bar discrimination based on location, the West Bank sales ban effectively barred Ben & Jerry’s Israel from any business.

The withdrawal of investments from Unilever put heavy pressure on the multinational conglomerate, which later spun off Ben & Jerry’s Israel, resulting in a legal battle between Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s that ended last year.

State anti-BDS laws have been opposed by civil liberties groups who say they violate free speech, and have been the subject of a series of legal disputes at the state and federal levels.

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