Portman Joins Bipartisan Group of Senators in Introducing Bill to Counter BDS Movement Targeting Israel

January 19, 2017 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) joined a bipartisan group of 19 senators in introducing the Combating BDS Act (S. 170), a bill to fight back against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement’s economic warfare against the Jewish state of Israel. The measure, led by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), which updates last year’s legislation proposed by Manchin and former Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), increases protections for state and local governments in the United States that decide to divest from, prohibit investment in, and restrict contracting with companies knowingly engaged in commerce-related or investment-related BDS activity targeting Israel.

“Israel is our closest ally in the most volatile region in the world and a democracy that shares our values,” Portman said. “In a world that is growing more dangerous, our alliance with Israel has only become more important. States and local governments shouldn't be forced into doing business with companies that discriminate and wage economic warfare against this critical ally.”

Original cosponsors of the Combating BDS Act include Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Bill Nelson (D-FL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Michael Bennet (D-CO), and Roy Blunt (R-MO).

Israel’s opponents are using boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a weapon in an attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state and its allies. At a time when anti-Israel boycotts are popping up around the country and the globe, the United States, Israel and our allies need new ways to defend against the evolving threat of economic warfare. Similar to previous state-based efforts to divest from companies doing business with Iran and Sudan, a new movement among state and local governments is growing to enact measures to divest from, prohibit investment in, and restrict contracting with entities engaged in discriminatory BDS conduct targeting Israel.

The Combating BDS Act strengthens these efforts by affirming the legal authority of state and local governments to take tangible actions to counter this economic warfare against Israel.  The bill clarifies that state and local governments have the legal authority to identify and divest public funds from, prohibit investment in, and restrict contracting with entities engaged in BDS conduct when the designations are based on “credible information available to the public.” The bill’s non-preemption safe harbor for asset managers will also enable them to take action against entities seeking to economically harm Israel.