A bill that bans the state of Florida from doing business with any company that boycotts the nation of Israel has passed through both houses of the Legislature, and will soon go to Governor Rick Scott’s desk.
The legislation is a shot at at the growing international movement to boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. The movement is particularly strong on college campuses, including USF in Tampa. Lawmakers claim the BDS movement is anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish, a claim that BDS advocates vehemently deny.
Specifically, the bill requires the State Board of Administration to identify all companies that are boycotting Israel or are engaged in a boycott of Israel in which the public fund owns direct or indirect holdings by a specified date; requiring the public fund to create and maintain the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List that names all such companies; prohibiting a state agency or local governmental entity from contracting for goods and services that exceed a specified amount if the company has been placed on the Scrutinized Companies that Boycott Israel List.
Weighing from afar to applaud the Legislature was Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
“It is more important than ever that we stand united with our close ally, Israel, and oppose the discriminatory labeling guidelines recently issued by the European Commission on both the state and federal levels,” Rubio said in a statement. He added that he and Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden have introduced a bill opposing the new European Union labeling guidelines and “sent a message to the world that America will not be silent in the face of this form of anti-Semitism.”
Opponents have questioned the constitutionality of the bill.
“This legislation creates a state sanctioned blacklist, punishing businesses for their constitutionally protected political speech and setting a dangerous, anti-democratic precedent in our state,” said Laila Abdelaziz, the legislative and government affairs director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Florida. “We urge Governor Scott to veto the bill.”