Kirk, Manchin, Dold & Vargas Introduce Bill to Stand Against Hateful Targeting of Israel

With Bipartisan Bill, Congress Opposes Economic Warfare Against Our Strongest Middle East Ally

WASHINGTON, IL – U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), Representative Robert Dold (R-Ill.-10), Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Representative Juan Vargas (D-Calif.-51) introduced the Combating BDS Act of 2016 (S. 2531, H.R. 4514), a bill to defend against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement’s economic warfare against Israel.  The new bipartisan legislation would authorize state and local governments to divest from companies engaged in BDS activities targeting Israel.

“The Combating BDS Act of 2016 uses the power of the purse to fight back against anti-Semitism throughout the world,” Senator Kirk said.  “This bipartisan bill would authorize state and local governments in the United States to follow Illinois’s lead and divest from companies engaged in boycotts and other forms of economic warfare against Israel.  With this bill, Congress underscores the critical role that state and local governments and their communities have to play in the ongoing struggle against anti-Semitism worldwide.”

“This is important step forward in reassuring Israel that we are not only protecting their national security interests, but that we are also protecting their economic interests,” Senator Manchin said. “This bipartisan legislation gives state and local governments a legal way to combat the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, which is shameful. Israel has been our strongest ally in the Middle East and we need to send them a strong signal that we will do everything in our power to fight the BDS movement.”  

“The BDS movement serves as a means to delegitimize Israel’s existence and inflame tensions in communities and on college campuses across the country,” Representative Dold said. “This important legislation empowers community leaders and individuals who seek to counter the hateful targeting of Israel, while sending an unquestionable message about our steadfast opposition to BDS and strong support for those who stand up for Israel.”

“I’m proud to support Rep. Dold’s effort to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement that targets Israel,” Representative Vargas said. “BDS efforts depict Israel in a negative light causing a loss of economic opportunities and penalizing commercial relations.”

Opponents of Israel are increasingly using BDS as a hateful weapon to delegitimize the Jewish State and those who stand with her.  At a time when anti-Israel boycotts are popping up around the country and the globe, the United States, Israel and our allies require new ways to defend against the evolving threat of economic warfare.  Similar to previous state-based efforts to divest from companies doing business with Iran, a movement among state and local governments is growing to enact measures to divest from entities participating in the anti-Israel BDS movement.  Illinois was the first state in the nation to enact a law to divest public pension funds from companies engaging in BDS.

The Combating BDS Act of 2016 strengthens these efforts by affirming, at the federal level, the legal authority of state and local governments to take tangible actions to counter this economic warfare against Israel.  The bill clarifies that state or local governments have the legal authority to identify and divest public funds from entities engaged in BDS when the designations are based on “credible information available to the public.”  By clarifying this authority, this legislation will protect state and local governments from lawsuits alleging they are unreasonably burdening or discriminating against interstate or foreign commerce.  The bill’s nonpreemption safe harbor for asset managers will also give states an offensive capability against entities seeking to economically damage Israel. 

The Combating BDS Act of 2016 is supported by numerous pro-Israel organizations, including the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago (JUF) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

“This bipartisan legislation is an important step upholding principles of fair trade and standing by our international allies,” JUF Washington, D.C. Director Lisa Shuger Hublitz said.  “As more states follow Illinois’ lead in passing anti-BDS legislation, this bill removes any lingering doubts whether state and local governments have the legal authority to divest from entities engaged in BDS activity targeting Israel. Moreover, this bill sends a powerful message that the United States Congress forcefully rejects the anti-Israel, anti-peace BDS movement.”

“We commend Senator Kirk, Congressman Dold, Senator Manchin, and Congressman Vargas for their continued leadership in combating the efforts of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement to delegitimize Israel and undermine the Middle East’s only true democracy,” AJC Chicago Regional Director Amy Stoken said. “And we applaud their introduction of bipartisan legislation that will authorize state and local governments to divest from the divestors—and leave the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to direct, diplomatic negotiations between the parties, where it belongs.”