Robert Bentley signs bill to cut business ties with Israel boycotters

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Score another victory for the pro-Israel lobby, this time in the Alabama statehouse.

Gov. Robert Bentley has given final approval to a law banning firms that boycott Israel from doing business with Alabama state and local governments.

SB81, sponsored by Republican Sen. Arthur Orr, restricts any public entity in the state from entering into a contract with firm participating in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS as it’s commonly known.

Several major companies, trade unions, academic institutions around the world are refusing to engage in commerce with Israel over what they call human rights violations against the Jewish state’s Palestinian neighbors.

But pro-Israel forces are fighting back around the nation, saying BDS boycotters unfairly target Israel and are motivated by hatred and anti-Semitism.

Josh Block of the Israel Project for instance, a 501(c)(3) advocacy group based in Jerusalem and Washington, D.C., applauded the move by Bentley and state lawmakers.

“BDS is discrimination cloaked in the language of human rights, but at its core, the effort to single out Israel is anti-Semitism, plain and simple,” said Block, TIP’s CEO.

“I congratulate the people of Alabama, their legislators and their governor, for seeing through this dangerous ruse and standing strongly with the Jewish state against misguided efforts to attack and delegitimize America’s closest ally in the Middle East,” said Block.

In enacting the new law, Alabama joins eight other states which have formally cut ties with BDS participants.

The Florida Legislature passed a similar bill in March. That bill, like Alabama’s new law, sailed through the legislative process. Alabama senators passed the bill 30-0, while the House approved its version by a 84-5 vote.

Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, South Carolina and Iowa also have anti-boycott laws on the books.

In a release, the Israel Project said the bill “takes square aim at hateful efforts to single out Israel by preventing Alabama from entering into contracts with business entities unless they certify that they are not and will not engage in boycotts.”

Critics of the anti-BDS movement say the laws are an undue incursion into private firms’ freedom of speech,

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