Tennessee becomes first state to officially condemn the boycott-Israel “BDS” movement

From SJL and jns.org reports

On April 21, the Tennessee Legislature became the first state body to pass a bill condemning the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel.

The U.S. Congress is also considering an anti-boycott law, the United States-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act.

Senator Dolores Gresham introduced the bill in the Tennessee Senate. Last year, Gresham led an effort to change the way Tennessee approves school textbooks after exposing anti-Semitic and anti-Israel bias in textbooks.

Laurie Cardoza-Moore, president of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations, lobbied for the bill, testifying before the Senate Finance, Ways and Means committee on April 7.

“With the current climate of increasing anti-Semitism, anti-Israel, and anti-Zionist campaigns, Tennesseans and all people of conscience should endorse public statements of support for our Jewish brethren living in Tennessee and pro-Israel students attending colleges and universities in our state,” Cardoza-Moore said.

The bill declared the BDS movement is “one of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state.”

According to PJTN, there is a BDS presence in the state, including a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter at the University of Tennessee and plans for one at Vanderbilt.

In a release, PJTN said by passing the bill, the Tennessee Legislature “has made a clear and unequivocal statement” on recent hate crimes “targeting Jewish communities, Jewish synagogues and anti-Semitic incidents on university campuses, such as the one recently committed against the Jewish fraternity at Vanderbilt University.”

Gresham recently stated that, “the Tennessee State Legislature chooses to preserve its values by publicly condemning this blatantly anti-Semitic, anti-Israel bigotry, and send a clear message that Tennessee condemns such views. We must make it very clear that peace and justice requires all peoples in the region to have human rights and dignity, and that we oppose political agendas that seek to undermine Jews and Israelis. This resolution seeks to do just that.”

Representative Sheila Butt, House sponsor of the resolution stated, “There has been a significant spike in anti-Semitic activity in Tennessee with BDS activity. Since 2011, more hate crimes have been committed annually against Jews than any other religious category in Tennessee. In fact, national hate crime statistics reveal the same phenomenon, but they are dramatically worse. As a member of the House Criminal Justice committee, it is our responsibility to ensure we are doing everything possible in Tennessee to prevent these crimes from taking place in our state.”

The bill passed in the Senate on April 9 on a 30-0 vote. The House passed it 93-1 on April 21, with the only vote against coming from Rep. G.A. Hardaway.

Governor Bill Haslam is expected to sign the measure next week.

Christians United For Israel, which reports 200,000 members just in Tennessee, also lobbied for the bill. Regional director Lyndon Allen, pastor of Woodmont Bible Church in Nashville, spoke in support. He will be at a CUFI pastor’s luncheon in Birmingham on April 28.

CUFI Communications Director Ari Morgenstern told JNS.org “Allen’s testimony… coupled with our local membership standing firmly behind the resolution and alongside members of the local Jewish community, played a pivotal role in seeing this legislation pass.”

Also testifying before the same committee to advocate for the resolution was Mark S. Freedman, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee, who said, “While the majority of delegitimization efforts are defeated, and support for Israel in the United States and in Tennessee remains strong, the opponents of Israel continue to make headway simply by poisoning the public discourse around Israel.” Freedman added that besides condemning divestment, Tennessee can go further by beginning “to think about investment in Israel.”

Tennessee has exhibited strong support for Israel throughout the years. In 1996, Governor Don Sundquist signed the Israel-Tennessee Cooperation Agreement resulting in strengthening the historic ties and increasing business, governmental, art, cultural, educational, and university activities between Tennessee and Israel.

Joanne Bregman, a member of the local Jewish community, said this bill should serve as a template for other states, and that the Christian-initiated bill should be a “wake-up call” for the Jewish community to be the ones “who need to fill the public information void” on BDS and anti-Semitism.

The Zionist Organization of America said it “strongly praises the Tennessee General Assembly for just passing a resolution, virtually unanimously, that declares that BDS is “one of the main vehicles for spreading anti-Semitism and advocating the elimination of the Jewish state,” and that BDS activities “undermine the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, which they are fulfilling in the State of Israel”.”

The Indiana House of Representatives passed a similar resolution on April 22 by a 93-0 vote. It now goes to the Indiana Senate.
The U.S. Senate and House bills are currently being considered. The Senate bill was attached as an amendment to a bill before the Senate Finance Committee.

The House bill has 37 co-sponsors, including Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama.

ZOA National President Morton Klein and ZOA Director of Special Projects Elizabeth Berney stated “The proposed legislation is an excellent, important step to counteract the tide of vicious, discriminatory BDS directed at Jews and Israel and Israel’s American and other trading partners. The bills are also very praiseworthy for condemning boycotts targeted at Israeli-controlled territories.”