NJ State Senate Votes to Support State of Israel


Yesterday the New Jersey State Senate demonstrated strong support (39-0) for passage of S1923, which is the New Jersey Legislature’s response to efforts nationally and internationally to boycott Israel.

S1923, whose prime sponsors are Senator James Beach and Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, prohibits investment by the State of pension and annuity funds in companies that boycott Israel or Israeli businesses.   Senator Beach capped his comments on the bill at the Session by saying that “We have Israel’s back,” which was a welcome sentiment in the presence of his colleagues and Jewish community leaders.

Beach added, “As a state and nation, we have a long-standing relationship with Israel and a common bond that is rooted in the values of freedom and democracy. We must take a stand against any efforts to boycott Israeli goods, products and businesses as a way to harm the state.  By banning investments in companies that participate in these punitive activities, we demonstrate our commitment to supporting and maintaining the strong relationship that has existed between New Jersey and Israel for years.”

“In view of the fact that New Jersey is one of Israel’s largest trading partners, nation or state, investing in companies that seek to weaken Israel economically is antithetical to the interests of New Jersey,” state Mark Levenson, President of the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations. “The State Association rightly played the leading advocacy role for the Jewish community because New Jersey’s long standing friendship with Israel demands that we stand by our friends and oppose boycotts and any other effort seeking to deny Israel the right to exist as a Jewish state,” Levenson added.

Last week, the bill was heard at the Senate State Government State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee, at which Majority Leader Weinberg championed the goals of the bill, at which Committee Chair Senator James Whelan (Atlantic County) and Committee members and presentations from federation representatives were also present to lend support.

At passage Senator Weinberg said, “Israel has long been a vibrant trading partner, ally and friend with our state, and making sure that we are not investing in any company that seeks to hurt the interests of Israel or its people through boycotts, divestments and sanctions will send a clear message that we stand against this kind of discrimination.  I am proud to sponsor this legislation and pleased that the New Jersey Senate spoke in one voice in support of this measure and in opposition to actions that seek to create division and to cause our allies harm.”

The bill seeks to address the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) effort to boycott Israeli goods, products and businesses. The bill would prohibit the assets of any pension or annuity fund under the jurisdiction of the Division of Investment from being invested in any company that boycotts goods, products or businesses of Israel.
Under the bill, the State Investment Council and the Director of the Division of Investment would be required to identify companies that violate the prohibition within 60 days after the effective date of the bill and to divest any investment held in violation of the prohibition within 18 months of the bill’s effective date. An annual progress report by the division regarding these divestments would be also required by the bill.

The prohibition would not apply to the activities of any company providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people through either a governmental or nongovernmental organization unless it is also engaging in prohibited boycotts.
”I am pleased to lend my name in support of legislation to combat what I see as a disturbing and harmful effort to isolate Israel from the family of nations through boycott, divestment and sanctions,” said Senator Kip Bateman.  “Having traveled to Israel for the first time on a legislative delegation earlier this year, I recognize Israel as a vibrant nation with a unique relationship to NJ and the US as a friend and strategic partner.”

We are gratified by the strong showing of bi-partisan legislative support, said Jac Toporek, executive director of the NJ State Association of Jewish Federations which championed the bill in close partnership with prime sponsor Senator James Beach (D-6). In addition, to Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) who was co-prime sponsor, the bill enjoyed support from the following sponsors: Senators Kip Bateman(R-16), Jim Whelan (D-2), Bob Gordon (D-38), Tom Kean (R-21), Joe Kyrillos (R-13), Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-3), Dick Codey (D-27), Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-5), Nia Gill (D-34), Linda Greenstein (D-14), Ray Lesniak (D-20), Fred Madden (D-4), Joe Pennacchio (R-26), Robert Singer (R-30), Bob Smith (D-17), and Joe Vitale (D-19).

The companion measure, A925, whose prime sponsors Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37), along with Gary Schaer (D-36), Nancy Pinkin, (D-18), Chris Brown (R-2), Raj Mukherji (D-33), and Pam Lampitt (D-6), were joined by seven other sponsors from around the State, has been requested to be heard at Assembly State and Local Government Committee at the first opportunity this spring, which may be as soon as May 19th.  

The leadership of the NJ State Association looks forward to having the measure reach Governor Christie’s desk to effect this strong position on shared values and economic self-interest.

Strategically coinciding with the BDS measure’s consideration by the NJ State Senate, the Senate President chose the session yesterday to honor Ambassador Ido Aharoni, who is nearing the conclusion of his term as Consul General of Israel in New York this coming July. Senate President Sweeney acknowledged the importance of the relationship between New Jersey and Israel, and with Ambassador Aharoni as a strong partner.  Joining him with words of appreciation and support for Aharoni were Senators Weinberg, Kean and Singer.  The Consul General was also provided a rare opportunity to address the full State Senate with his own parting words of appreciation for the friendship enjoyed between the individuals and more importantly for the strength of relationship between the State of Israel and the people of New Jersey.


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