Congress may make it easier to divest from anti-Israel companies
posted at 6:41 pm on February 10, 2016 by Jazz Shaw
Whenever I see a headline with the words Israel and “divestment” in it I immediately feel tired. Of course, it usually involves students on various campuses who have taken time out from their demands for safe spaces and trigger warnings to oppress somebody else, so it’s fairly easy to ignore them. Still, the BDS movement has shown up in other places and it’s constant sore spot for most sane people around the country. This week, however, the headline lead to news of a very different sort. In fact, you could pretty much call it the opposite of the usual food fight. (Washington Free Beacon)
A bipartisan coalition in both the House and Senate are pushing legislation that would authorize all state and local governments to divest taxpayer funds from any company that engages in boycotts of Israel, according to interviews with lawmakers and a copy of the bill obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The new bill, which was filed Wednesday afternoon, marks an aggressive push by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to combat the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, otherwise known as BDS, which advocates in favor of economic war against the Jewish state.
The bill would provide legal shelter to states seeking to divest taxpayer funds from any company that has backed the BDS movement. It also would set a legal precedent granting safe harbor for private investment companies to do the same.
The entire investment / divestment question is one which seems to veer away from the normal role of government oversight and I always find it counterproductive. Investment of any sort should be profit driven, otherwise what’s the point? When I see people divesting from fossil fuels to “make a point” in the political battlefield all I can think is that the people they represent are not being well served. By the same token, anyone can refuse to send their money to anything they find particularly odious if they aren’t making that decision for a bunch of other people who may have no control over the investment strategy.
What I’m waiting to find more about regarding this legislation is the type of protection which would be required for any state, company or individual who wished to divest from anti-Israel companies. In the case of private individuals or privately held corporations, who could possibly punish them for making such a divestiture move? Now when it comes to the states I can see where some snags might arise. Would this include “investments” in the form of payments to companies with government contracts? That could get ugly quickly given all of the complex laws for awarding government contracts, including requirements to go to the lowest bidder in some cases or set asides for minority owned companies in others. Turning around and saying “no contract for you” because they were pushing BDS would probably result in an immediate tangle of lawsuits which would tie up operations for years.
The idea of providing some shelter for anti-BDS companies is an admirable one on principle, but we’ll have to wait and see how it would actually be implemented.