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Missouri lawmakers pass bill against boycotting Israel

Dozens of states have banned the non-violent BDS movement [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 May, 2020

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Missouri has become the 28th state to adopt legislation banning companies from boycotting Israel, violating Americans' right to free speech through protest.
Missouri lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill to ban the state from doing business with companies that boycott Israel.

The Republican-led House approved the measure 95-40 on Thursday, the day before their Friday deadline to pass bills this year.

The bill is in response to the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement which aims to highlight Israel's human rights abuses.

The movement promotes boycotts, divestment and sanctions of Israeli government-linked institutions and businesses in a non-violent campaign against the occupation of Palestinian territory and other abuses.

However Israel maintains that the campaign is anti-Semitic and seeks to destroy the country.

In-depth: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel: What is BDS and why should you care?

The Missouri bill would require companies to sign a contract pledging not to boycott Israel in order to do business with Missouri. It wouldn't apply to contracts worth less than $100,000 or companies with fewer than 10 employees.

At least 27 other states have passed similar policies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Republican Representative Holly Rehder led the Senate bill through the House. She said doing anything to support the boycott movement goes against Missouri's economic policies and would be “absurd.”

“The legislature has taken bold action to combat the insidious and hateful BDS movement that singles out Israel and encourages punitive actions against its economy and citizens," said Nancy Lisker, director of the American Jewish Committee St. Louis Region.

But the bill drew bipartisan opposition from lawmakers who said it tramples on Americans' right to free speech through protests.

Republican Representative Tony Lovasco said awarding business contracts based on political opinions would be “incredibly dangerous.” He said criticising a government is not the same as criticising the people who live in that country.

“I am incredibly critical of our government, for example,” Lovasco said. “I'm not anti-American. I love this country. I don’t want to be in a position where my criticism of our government's choices and how our government spends, or in my mind wastes our money, is going to result in my being placed in effectively a blacklist.”

The measure now heads to Republican Governor Mike Parson.

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