By Sean Shapiro
Special to the TJP
The State of Texas is getting closer to solidifying its support for Israel as House Bill 89 and Senate Bill 29 are making progress in the Texas Legislature.
The companion bill would prohibit the use of state public funds for companies that are involved with the organization Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is a global campaign attempting to increase political and economic pressure on Israel through boycotts, divestment of investments and international sanctions. One of BDS’ target goals is delegitimizing the State of Israel.
On March 22, Senate Bill 29 was passed by a 25-4 vote and sent to the House. On that same day the House State Affairs Committee heard testimony on House Bill 89 and it was later passed out of committee by a unanimous 10-0 vote.
“We have been thrilled to see the traction that it’s gotten in the Senate and House,” Joel Schwitzer, from the AJC Dallas Regional Chapter, said. “We’re gratified it’s happened like it has. The advocacy on this bill from both parties and from all those who came together has been superb.”
Part of the bill’s success has been the outpouring of support from the community. In February busloads of people went to Austin to stand up for the bill and speak with their representatives.
One of those to speak up was Jesse Stock, the southern regional coordinator for StandWithUs, which works to gain worldwide support for Israel. In Stock’s speech to the legislative committee, he worked to dispel any falsehoods about the bill.
“Opponents of this bill claim it infringes on their First Amendment rights. This is completely false. If a company in Texas chooses to boycott Israel, they are free to do so,” Stock said in his speech. “This bill simply says the State of Texas refuses to do business with those companies that choose to be racist, hateful and target our greatest ally in the region. This bill protects Texas jobs and financial interests. The invaluable partnership between Lockheed-Martin and the Israeli government is just one example.”
There hasn’t been much opposition to the bill, but those who have opposed it have tried to claim it infringes upon First Amendment rights. That is wholly false, and Schwitzer said legislators have recognized that.
“There have been some speaking against it, but there’s been way more support for the bills in both the House and the Senate,” Schwitzer said. “People are noticing this is the right thing for Texas and that it’s important for Texas to stand with Israel.”
And having Texas pass such legislation would send a strong message to the rest of the country.
Other states have already passed similar legislation, but if Texas joins the group it could encourage other states to adopt similar legislation and stand with Israel.
Such a bill would also put pressure on the private sector to support Israel and push for private companies to distance themselves from pro-BDS organizations.
For example, Comerica Bank, which is based in Dallas, has provided an account to pro-BDS organization the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL). The IADL aligned itself with Iran’s regime in its criticism of the Jewish state.
State representative Phil King, who is from Weatherford and represents District 61 West of Fort Worth, sponsored the bill in the House and has been encouraged by the progress of the bill.
“Texas will not tolerate national-origin discrimination against Israel, which is precisely what BDS is,” King wrote on his website. “Efforts to inflict economic harm upon Texas’ trading partners weaken our state’s ability to conduct trade, and harm our vital social interests. BDS is not only Israel’s problem, it’s Texas’ problem as well.”