Christie signs bill banning N.J. pension investments with businesses boycotting Israel

Matt Arco, NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

TRENTON — New Jersey on Tuesday became the third state in the nation to put a law on its books to oppose a movement that encourages a boycott of Israeli goods and services.

Gov. Chris Christie signed into law a bipartisan measure that bars the state's public worker pension fund from investing in companies that refuse to do business with Israel.

The Garden State joins Florida and Illinois, which have similar laws. It's a public pushback against businesses participating in the Palestinian-led "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions" movement.

The BDS movement is a global campaign to put pressure on Israeli to stop "colonizing Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes."

"This legislation officially distances New Jersey from the (BDS movement)," Christie said.

"Israel is an overseas relative in need of our support," he said. "We'll encourage other states to join in likewise."

Christie added: "We do not join destructive movements."

The measure (S1923) received near unanimous support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The state Senate voted 39-0 in May to support it and it cleared the state Assembly the next month on a 70-3 vote with two abstentions. 

Lawmakers who supported the pension prohibition cited New Jersey's $1.7 billion trade relationship with the country and shared values. 

"The state and Israel have a long history of friendship based on economic, cultural, intellectual and political cooperation and exchange, and the elected representatives of New Jersey recognize and support Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state," the bill says. "The BDS effort, according to proponents, seeks to advance human rights. However, the actual goal is a thinly disguised attempt to demonize Israel."

Under the law, the state Division of Investments would be barred from investing public workers' $72 billion pension fund in these companies and dump any of these existing holdings within 18 months.

Christie went on a four-day trade mission to Israel in 2012 and 16 state lawmakers visited the country for a week in February.