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California to Fight BDS

UPDATE: The IAC has clarified that the group responsible for leading the advocacy effort on Bill AB2844 was the IAC Coalition for Action, a partner 501(c)3 to the IAC.

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill Saturday preventing companies from engaging in discriminatory boycotts from countries doing business with the State of California.

Bill AB2844 was introduced by Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) and co-authored by Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach). By August 24th, the State’s Senate had approved the bill by a 34-1 vote, and by the end of the month, the California State Assembly passed it by a 69-1 vote.

The bill was signed into law Saturday afternoon, hours before the opening plenary at the Israeli-American Council (IAC) National Conference in Washington, D.C.

“We are proud to have the author of AB2844 with us this evening, Assemblymember Richard Bloom, as we celebrate this major victory against BDS in the State of California,” IAC Chairman Adam Milstein announced Saturday night. The defeat of the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in California signifies a victory for the State of Israel, a regular target of the Hamas-backed discriminatory measure.

Also present on stage that night was Milan Chatterjee, a former University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) law student who began his last year of law school at New York University (NYU) after experiencing a year of bullying and harassment from UCLA’s anti-Israel coalition.

Dillon Hosier, the National Director for State Government Affairs at the Israeli-American Coalition for Action, who was largely responsible for the anti-BDS bill’s approval, told the Daily Wire he thinks the bill would be a “great tool” for California’s pro-Israel community.

“It highlights the fact that BDS was becoming some kind of First Amendment-type activity and to blatant discrimination and I think we’ve seen it on campuses, and it’s kind of starting to bleed over into other sectors like labor and even in the corporate sectors as well,” Hosier said, pointing out the Golden State, home to the fifth largest economy in the world, experiences a higher level of BDS activity than any other state.

“With this legislation, we’ve kind of really struck a serious blow to the anti-Semitic movement,” he said.

To UCLA student and activist Liat Menna, the bill provides a sense of reassurement because it takes a stronger stance against discriminatory actions that foster political divides at her college campus.

“It is reassuring to know that the government is not turning its back on its Jewish citizens recognizing the anti-Semitic nature of the boycott movement against America’s greatest ally, Israel,” she added.

Menna is the student leader of the Students Supporting Israel, a pro-Israel activist group at UCLA.

Speakers on the IAC stage that weekend included former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, former Fox News anchor Greta van Susteren, and Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, among others.

IAC, an intercommunity nonprofit organization headquartered in Los Angeles, has worked closely with the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC since its inception in 2007.

Earlier this month, AIPAC released a letter signed by 88 out of 100 U.S. senators calling on President Obama to reject one-sided U.N. intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as reported by Tablet Magazine’s Yair Rosenberg. Three pro-Israel U.S. senators including Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Ben Sasse (R-NE) did not sign the letter, claiming it leaves room for skepticism of Israel alongside its Palestinian perpetrators, underestimating Palestinian terrorism in the region. Rosenberg pointed out the number would have been four, if Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) had been counted.

“Unfortunately, the language in the opening paragraph declaring the ‘two-state solution’ as the ‘only’ resolution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians undermines this well-intentioned effort, and makes it impossible for me to sign,” Cruz had written in a statement. “This matter is an internal one for Israel to decide, and it is not the place of the United States—or the United Nations—to impose a solution on a sovereign nation.”

IAC CEO Shoham Nicolet told the Daily Wire he publicly supported the letter and is “proud” to collaborate with the pro-Israel lobby.

“We’re definitely not trying to replace AIPAC, compete with AIPAC,” Nicolet said, adding he tries to encourage hosting a variety of left- and right-leaning speakers at his conference.

One of those guests included Marc Schneier, a far-left rabbi who made headlines this past summer for partnering with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

CAIR was investigated by the United States government for working with terrorist organizations and engaging in other anti-Israel activities over the years, according to an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) report. In an April 2009, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sent a letter to the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security citing evidence that CAIR and its founders had been working with the Muslim Brotherhood to support Hamas. The letter was sent during a trial that found all charges guilty against the anti-Israel Holy Land Foundation (HLF), including a sentence of 65 years for the founder of CAIR’s Dallas chapter. In 2014, the United Arab Emirates classified CAIR as a terrorist organization.

Schneier’s Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) works to portray Islam as a “religion of peace” with a campaign called “Muslims are Speaking out.” On Sunday at the IAC stage, Schneier announced that his foundation had co-authored a letter with ten other Muslim leaders asking Hamas to return the bodies of the Israeli soldiers it had massacred.

Schneier did not address his involvement with CAIR at the IAC conference. Nicolet said he did not think the panelist’s CAIR involvement was relevant to the event.

“It’s his business, to be honest with you,” Nicolet told the Daily Wire.

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