Maryland made the right choice on Israel
BY JOSHUA S. BLOCK
Washington Jewish Week
November 15, 2017
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Standing side by side with Jewish leaders from Baltimore and Montgomery counties, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order last month prohibiting all state agencies from entering into contracts or conducting official state business with companies engaged in a boycott of the State of Israel.
Hogan is right to oppose discrimination in all its forms, including that which singles out the world’s only Jewish state for special opprobrium.
In his remarks after the signing, the governor dismissed the boycotts movement as a campaign of hate. “Boycotts based on religion, national origin, place of residence, or ethnicity are discriminatory,” the governor said, adding that “contracting with businesses that practice discrimination would make the state a passive participant in private-sector commercial discrimination.”
Discrimination is wrong, and as President Barack Obama said, we should not have to subsidize it. By taking this step, Maryland joins dozens of other states across the country that have taken steps to ensure taxpayer funds do not go to subsidize hate against Israel.
Of course, Israel is not above legitimate criticism and critique. Every society, every nation, should strive to do better, and more than most, Israel’s pluralistic, vibrant society is constantly seeking to improve itself. All nations struggle to live up to their best impulses — Israel is no different, and must be treated like every other nation. That’s why the U.S. State Department considers holding Israel to a double standard as a signal indicative of anti-Semitism.
Hiding behind laudable rhetoric on human rights, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement attempts to justify the targeting of the Jewish state for special treatment and harassment.
This movement brushes aside the hundreds of territorial disputes and thousands of human rights abuses around the world, and uses deception to delegitimize Israel’s very right to exist in the community of nations.
Reacting to the governor’s decision, Reuven Azar, the deputy head of mission at the Israeli Embassy, said, “The State of Israel is thankful for the steadfast support of Gov. Hogan and the people of Maryland against those who wish to delegitimize it.”
As a resident of Maryland, I share his sentiment. I am extremely proud of my state for taking a stance against discrimination. America and Israel have developed a resilient friendship, due in large part to an unshakable dedication to our cultural history that forms the bedrock of western civilization. But beyond sharing common values and history, Israel has emerged as a central business partner with the state of Maryland, an important fact that must not be overlooked.
There are more than two dozen Israeli companies headquartered in Maryland. In 2015, Maryland became Israel’s 19th largest trading partner. According to various reports and statistics, Maryland exports more than $145 million in products to Israel, and every governor elected since 1992 has led a trade mission to Israel. The current governor led his trade mission last year.
The decision by the governor to sign the executive order makes Maryland the 23rd state to have either enacted anti-BDS legislation or had an executive order issued.
With almost half of the states now standing steadfast against BDS, this has been a uniquely bipartisan phenomenon — something we do not see often these days. From Maryland to California, Arizona to Florida, red states and blue, there has been a consistent mantra: BDS is discrimination and states will not tolerate or condone taxpayer dollars going to subsidize a hate movement.
Fifty years ago, Soviet Premier Aleksei Kosygin asked President Lyndon Johnson why Americans support Israel. “There are 80 million Arabs and only 3 million Jews,” he said. “Why do it?” Johnson shot back at him, “Because it is right.”
If you take the time to listen to BDS proponents, you will quickly learn that they do not seek to improve conditions for Palestinians. They do not speak in favor of creating a sustainable solution to the conflict, nor do they attempt to create an atmosphere of trust and friendship. On the contrary, what they seek is the total annihilation of Israel.
Let’s stay true to our American ideals and prevent this pernicious effort to single out the only true democracy in the Middle East. We must not subsidize hate.
Thank you, Gov. Hogan and the State of Maryland for your leadership in fighting this insidious form of anti-Semitic discrimination and for calling out BDS for what it is: a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Joshua S. Block is CEO and president of The Israel Project.