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There’s a movement growing nationwide in support of a policy to prevent discrimination. It’s been successfully codified into law in more than a dozen states, and the success of this movement has been celebrated by liberals and conservatives alike.
Unlike many other anti-discrimination movements, there have been no rallies pushing for change, no protests and no unrest or violence of any kind. What has been happening is that regular citizens of states around the nation have contacted their elected officials and asked them for help in ensuring that their taxpayer dollars don’t fund discrimination.
From Georgia and California to Iowa and Florida, states around this great nation have joined together to reject the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, an insidious effort to wage economic warfare against our ally Israel couched in language that makes the idea seem admirable.
At its heart, BDS doesn’t seek to change Israel’s policies or behavior. It seeks to undermine Israel’s right to exist at all. Its supporters have said as much loudly and clearly. They do not wish for a two-state solution with Israelis and Palestinians living side-by-side in peace and prosperity.
Ignoring actual human-rights abuses from authoritarian regimes around the world, BDS proponents claim that their effort is a peaceful one. They compare their work to the anti-apartheid movement. But they’re wrong. By urging a boycott of Israel — the only true democracy in the Middle East — they’re harming the chances for peace.
But don’t take my word for it. Back in 2013, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said, “[W]e do not ask anyone to boycott Israel itself. We have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel.”
Israel is a true ally to the United States. Our people and the people of Israel both value democracy, the rule of law, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. Women have equal rights in Israel. Muslims serve in the country’s parliament and on the highest court in the land.
Here in Minnesota, we now have an opportunity to join the nationwide movement declaring our state unwilling to cooperate with this discrimination. HF400 and SF247 have introduced legislation designed to ensure that no taxpayer money goes to those engaged in this pernicious campaign. The bill, like those passed in more than a dozen states before it, would prevent the state from contracting with companies involved in BDS.
Our longstanding relationship with Israel is an important one, accounting for more than $87 million in annual trade between Minnesota and Israel. In 1987, Gov. Rudy Perpich established the Minnesota-Israel Exchange (MNIX) to foster cooperation and promote trade, investment, science and industry between Israel and Minnesota. The exchange has been successful in providing an avenue for Minnesota companies to position themselves in the Israeli market.
More than 100 Minnesota companies are doing business in Israel. These companies include 3M, Radisson Hotels Worldwide, Cargill and others. These companies are some of the most innovative in America and employ thousands of Minnesotans. Other collaborative efforts between our two great institutions, the University of Minnesota and Mayo Clinic — and their Israeli counterparts are ongoing and fruitful.
Opponents of this bill will argue — in fact many already have — that such conditions on state contracting represent an affront to free speech. But they’re wrong. BDS seeks to discriminate against people not because of their conduct, but because of who they are. That’s wrong, and we shouldn’t stand for it.
We have a long and proud history of standing up against bigotry, and we should all urge our representatives in government to continue standing up against hatred. BDS is bad for Minnesota, and it’s bad for peace. I urge all Minnesotans to support this important legislation.
Jacob Millner, of Minnetonka, is Midwest regional director and senior policy analyst for the Israel Project as well as a board member of the local Jewish Community Relations Council.