The Arizona Senate this afternoon passed what may be the toughest pro-Israel law in the U.S. designed to counter the pro-Palestinian movement to persuade Americans to boycott/divest/sanction Israel. It is a boycotting of the boycotters. The bill has also prompted accusations of political grandstanding and anti-Semitism.

The Senate approved an amended version of HB2617 by a 23-6 vote. The Senate’s amendment sends the bill back to the House for concurrence. The House is re-voting on the amended anti-BDS bill Monday, March 14. The House initially approved the measure three weeks ago on a 46-14 vote.

The BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement encourages companies, universities, pension funds and everyone else to boycott companies that do business in Israel. Modeled after the movement in the 1980s to pressure South Africa to change its apartheid practices, the BDS movement seeks to pressure Israel to withdraw from the West Bank and Golan Heights, and to accept other Palestinian demands.

HB2617 would prohibit any part of Arizona government from investing in or contracting with any company that boycotts Israel. It also requires the State Treasurer and state retirement systems to annually compile a list of boycotting companies that the state will boycott. The state will then notify the companies and give them a chance to remove themselves from the list.

The legislative findings portion of the bill notes that "boycotts and related tactics have become a tool of economic warfare that threaten the sovereignty and security of key allies and trade partners of the United States." Arizona's bill thus becomes counter-warfare.

The primary sponsors of HB2617 are House Speaker David Gowan (R-LD14) and Rep. Paul Boyer (R-LD20). Boyer tells Arizona's Politics [see below] he believes the Arizona measure is tougher than laws and resolutions passed in a few other states last year because "it has teeth."

"There is a state interest in protecting our best friend in the world (Israel)," and it only impacts "a company that has taken an official position to boycott Israel (or to divest or sanction)."

That Gowan is also running for Congress (in open CD1) has been raised by some as a motivation for this bill, but Boyer says they were each independently working on addressing the issue, and joined forces after Boyer discovered that "the speaker was driving this conversation."

Several Democrats in the House and committees have voted for the measure, but opposition has come from others in the minority party. Sen. Steve Farley (D-LD9) voted against the bill yesterday in the Finance Committee hearing (he was the only nay vote). He tells Arizona's Politics, "I don't think it is the role of government to control who a private business should do or not do business with."

Former lawmaker Adam Kwasman testified before the committee, and then tweeted

Farley wrote to Arizona's Politics "... not all Jewish Americans agree with this bill. I heard from several Jewish constituents who asked me to oppose this bill. Mr Kwasman's politics of personal destruction don't rate a response." (Kwasman did not respond in time for this article.)

The Senate Finance Committee also added a key amendment that would prohibit any cities, universities, etc. from adopting pro-BDS laws or policies.

Farley did not participate in the final vote, although he voted "nay" in committee the day before.

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