Wisconsin bans Israel boycotters from doing state business

Governor Scott Walker hails Jewish state as ‘firm and faithful friend,’ joins 23 other US states in disqualifying boycotting companies from state tenders

Illustrative: Republican presidential candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the American Legislative Exchange Council 42nd annual meeting, in San Diego, July 23, 2015. (AP/Denis Poroy)
Illustrative: Republican presidential candidate Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the American Legislative Exchange Council 42nd annual meeting, in San Diego, July 23, 2015. (AP/Denis Poroy)

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed an executive order that prohibits state agencies from entering into contracts with companies that boycott Israel.

Walker, a Republican who briefly ran for his party’s presidential nomination last year, signed the executive order late on Friday.

“Israel is a firm and faithful friend of the United States,” the legislation reads.

Wisconsin exports over $80 million annually to Israel and imports over $200 million annually from Israel.

The Wisconsin Jewish Federations praised the governor for signing the order.

“The order protects Wisconsin’s economy from efforts to restrict trade with Israel,” said Elana Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. “It affirms Wisconsin’s economic, business and cultural relationship with Israel.”

A Palestinian woman walks by a sign calling to boycott Israel in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on February 11, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash 90)

“BDS initiatives sever economic ties between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors, and therefore are counter-productive to developing a long-term lasting peaceful solution,” said Hannah Rosenthal, president and CEO of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. “We know that the ultimate goal of boycotting Israel is not to promote peace and justice, nor to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer to a solution, but to sow division, shut down exchanges and cooperation, and ultimately to challenge Israel’s legitimacy.”

“By issuing this executive order, Governor Walker and the State of Wisconsin have firmly taken a stand against the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and its discriminatory policies against Israeli businesses and individuals, which undermines Middle East peace. Wisconsin is the 24th state to ensure that efforts to isolate and delegitimize Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, are unable to gain a foothold. They are making it clear that supporting Israel is not only in our states interests, but also in America’s interest as well,” said William Daroff, senior vice president for public policy at the Jewish Federations of North America, in a statement.

Wisconsin will become at least the 24th US state with laws or executive orders banning state business with companies that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, against Israel.

Last year, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, issued the first executive order in the country that forces state entities to drop investments linked to boycotts of Israel. State legislatures have been passing measures to stop boycotts.

Among the states that have passed anti-boycott legislation in recent months are: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

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