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Boycott Israel movement now facing … surging boycott

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Jerusalem at night in CIA image



For more than a decade, there’s been a worldwide campaign on behalf of Palestinians telling companies, universities and others who handle large amounts of cash to avoid doing any business that would in any way help Israel.


It’s called the BDS movement – for boycott, divestment and sanctions – against Israel until some point at which the Middle East democracy would give up enough land, power or rights to satisfy the Palestinians.


The activists apply pressure wherever they think there might be a response.


For example, the “Palestinian BDS National Committee” recently issued a statement calling on Oscar award nominees to reject an “Israel propaganda trip.”


The trip involved travel vouchers supplied by the Israeli government “as part of the gift bag” given to nominees in some categories.


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But those institutions and organizations that have given in to boycott demands now are facing a boycott themselves – for participating in the boycott.


The most recent move came in Colorado, where the Business Journal reports investors for more than half a million retired Colorado workers soon probably will have to pull money from companies that divested from Israel.


That’s after the state Senate approved a bill that would require the state pension funds to take that action.


It’s a bipartisan move, sponsored by Reps. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Dan Nordberg, R-Colorado Springs.


It requires that the state’s Public Employees’ Retirement Association first identify companies that prohibit business with Israel and then to divest all direct holdings from that company.


It puts the BDS movement in bad company, since the state earlier required in the law the withdrawal of funds from companies that support the Sudanese government. The pension fund board has its own policy against doing business with companies that interact with Iran.


According to a report from JTA.org, Colorado is among the leaders of the boycott-the-boycotters movement, but far from alone.


“California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have passed or are considering bills or resolutions taking action against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel,” the report said.


Reports say that Colorado’s governor, John Hickenlooper, supports the legislation, and the Senate vote was 25-9.


The Colorado House previously has approved the idea, 54-10, and the bill now is heading to a conference committee for the last details to be agreed.


Colorado’s state pension fund has $47 billion in assets.


The Journal report said a minority of Democrats opposes the plan because, as Sen. Linda Newell, D-Littleton, claimed, “It’s a deliberate poke in the eye to those trying to achieve peace.”


The pension fund board also has said it doesn’t want any limits on what it can do.


But the Journal said, “Legislators argued differently, saying companies that try to undermine the economic stability of America’s top ally in the Middle East should not be supported by public funding.”


“My concern is how sanctions are being used against Israel to raise expectations of ‘conflict resolution,'” Sen. Kent Lambert, a Colorado Springs Republican, told the Journal.


“Boycotting Israel economically is an act of war. It is not conflict resolution,” he said.


There have been several other recent controversies involving the movement, too.


The Jerusalem Post reported earlier this week a Methodist pension fund divestment of $21 billion from five Israeli banks “to appease” the Untied Methodist Kairos Response may have been in violation of the fund’s own rules.


“When the decision to divest from Israeli banks was finalized, UMKR and other BDS organizations were ecstatic, but complaints from pension holders poured in. Even senior executives at the pension have been brave enough to voice their outrage. Rhys Read, the controller and treasurer of the Methodist pension, believes the Israeli divestment decision ‘has now resulted in grave reputational and potential financial risks. The decision to divest is not in accordance with our investment policy,'” the Post report said.


The report said a contractor used to identify companies was biased, and the “pension board has not been able to come up with any objective criteria to explain their decision.”


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