Legislation is in Response to the "Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions" Movement against Israel
An Assembly panel on Thursday approved legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Gary Schaer, Nancy Pinkin, Raj Mukherji, Pamela Lampitt and Vince Mazzeo prohibiting the investment of New Jersey public employee retirement funds in any company that boycotts, divests, or sanctions Israel or Israeli businesses.
Vainieri Huttle, Schaer, Pinkin, Mukherji and Lampitt all took part in a legislative study mission to Israel earlier this year where they gained insight into how Israel, a $1.7 billion trade partner with New Jersey, provides international leadership in new technology and humanitarian assistance and works to achieve peace and address the security concerns of its citizens.
"This bill is designed to combat the 'Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions' movement targeted against Israel," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "With the power of our pension funds, we're sending a statement that we will not stand for any global attempts to delegitimize our partner in democracy and freedom."
"The BDS movement is an attempt to punish and isolate Israel, who has been a long-standing ally of the United States and a cooperative partner with New Jersey," said Schaer (D-Bergen), Chair of the Assembly Budget Committee. "Our multi-billion dollar pension fund is a formidable disincentive for those considering boycotting Israel."
The bill (A-925) also requires the State Investment Council and the Director of the Division of Investment to take appropriate action to divest any investment held in violation of the prohibition. Under the bill, progress reports by the division regarding these divestments are required.
"This move sends a message that we stand with Israel as partners in support of freedom and democracy and we will not remain willfully silent as others attempt to isolate and persecute her financially," said Pinkin (D-Middlesex).
"New Jersey stands by her friends," said Mukherji (D-Hudson), who sits on the Budget Committee. "The BDS movement has sought to vilify our multibillion dollar trade partner and fellow champion of democracy as some sort of Apartheid regime. I will not allow our sizable pension fund to reward anti-Semitic and anti-peace sentiment with its investments. Companies that try to take punitive measures against Israel will face the same treatment tenfold."
"This is a moral statement, backed by the power of our pension funds, that we stand with Israel as a long-time friend, ally, and supporter of democracy and attempts to isolate her financially will not go unanswered," said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington).
"We cannot stand idly by as others attempts to demonize Israel," said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). "This legislation will send a strong signal that New Jersey and its residents stand strongly with the citizens of the State of Israel."
However, the bill does not apply to the activities of any company providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people through either a governmental or non-governmental organization.
Illinois's legislature recently passed similar legislation restricting investment of its pension fund in companies that boycott Israel.
The measure was approved by the Assembly State and Local Government Committee.