Illinois Moves to Counter Israel Boycott

Illinois becomes first state in the United States to divest public pension funds from foreign companies that boycott Israel.
IL Governor is signing the legislation into law. (Photo via video stream)

IL Governor Bruce Rauner is signing the legislation into law in Chicago on July 23. (Photo via video stream)

CHICAGO: Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed historic legislation making Illinois the first state in the US to divest its public pension funds from companies that participate in the Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment (BDS) movement targeting Israel.

The Illinois law is the first state-based measure to take specific concrete action against boycotts of Israel. The legislation, which was modeled after past measures relating to Iran and Sudan, requires state pension systems to terminate direct investment in companies that boycott Israel and issue warnings to fund managers when such companies are held indirectly inside larger portfolios, said a press release issued by the state governor’s office. The statute defines “boycotting Israel” as “engaging in actions that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize, inflict economic harm on, or otherwise limit commercial relations with the State of Israel or companies based in the State of Israel or in territories controlled by the State of Israel.”

Israel enjoys large support in the state, which is also home to close to 300,000 Jewish residents. New York is home to more than 1.7 million Jewish residents, the largest concentration of the community in the country, followed by California which has more than 1.2 million Jewish residents.

“We need to stand up to anti-Semitism whenever and wherever we see it,” the press release quoted Gov. Rauner as saying. He was flanked by bipartisan legislators, Jewish community leaders and the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest, Illinois. “This historic legislation is an important first step in the fight against boycotts of Israel and I hope other states move quickly to follow our lead. I want to thank Sen. Silverstein, Rep. Feigenholtz and all the sponsors of this legislation for working with our Administration to take a stand against BDS.”

The anti-BDS measure, SB 1761, was initiated by Gov. Rauner and sponsored by Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-Chicago) and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago). It passed 49-0 in the Senate and 102-0 in the House.

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