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US lawmakers in New Hampshire urge passing of anti-BDS bill

The bill emphasises the importance of New Hampshire’s trade with Israel, sponsors write in an op-ed
Pro-Palestinian demonstrators carrying a sign reading 'BDS' in a march on 22 August 2016 in Beverly Hills, California (AFP)

Political leaders in New Hampshire are calling for public support of an anti-boycott bill that would prohibit state funds from being used to contract with or invest in companies supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) against Israel.

Legislation against BDS currently only exists at the state level in the US, and if this bill is made into law, New Hampshire would be the 36th state to do so. 

In April 2022, Tennessee became the most recent state to adopt an anti-BDS law which says that all state contracts must include “a written certification that the company is not currently engaged in, and will not for the duration of the contract engage in a boycott of Israel”.

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The New Hampshire bill, HB339, which was introduced in January and sponsored by Representatives James Spillane Kenneth Weyler, Jordan Ulery, and Jess Edwards, emphasises the importance of New Hampshire’s trade with Israel, the sponsors say. 

“Israel is a key trade partner for our state and contributes materially to our quality of life,” Spillane and former representative Paul Burch wrote in an op-ed on Monday. “It is also sadly the target of a hate movement that seeks to isolate it economically, alienate it socially and coerce neutral businesses into joining the hate-driven boycott against their will.”

According to Spillane and Burch, New Hampshire’s total exports to Israel since 1996 exceed $1.1bn, and in 2021 exports of manufactured goods were $110m. Israel is New Hampshire’s 14th largest trade partner. 

“The BDS Movement’s messaging strategy helps to systematically facilitate the development of bigoted anti-Jewish perspectives that as history repeatedly shows, will eventually give way to anti-Semitic discrimination, hatred, and ultimately persecution,” Spillane and Burch wrote in the op-ed. 

“BDS interferes with free trade and drives anti-Semitism, and it has no place in New Hampshire.”

This comes just one month after the US Supreme Court declined to weigh in on a legal fight over an Arkansas law that requires contractors to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel.

The country's top court rejected a petition from the Arkansas Times, which was looking to challenge a lower court's ruling dismissing the newspaper's lawsuit which claimed the legislation violates the free speech protections guaranteed by the US Constitution.

The newspaper said the law was "abhorrent and a violation of the Bill of Rights".

In 2022, United States Senator Tom Cotton outlined a plan to introduce national legislation targeting the BDS movement. He said the legislation he was planning to introduce would prevent the US military from contracting with any companies engaged in a boycott of Israel.

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