The Bluegrass State has now become the 26th U.S state to join in the fight against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Denouncing BDS as anti-Semitic and “repugnant,” Kentucky governor Matt Bevin signed an executive order last week barring state contracts with companies that support a boycott of the State of Israel.
Surrounded by rabbis, Gov. Bevin signed the measure at a ceremony at the state capitol, with Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer and Consul General of Israel to the Southeastern United States Judith Varnai Shorer in attendance.
“The State of Israel is an important friend and trading partner to the Commonwealth,” said Bevin. “We will not allow state resources to benefit entities that intentionally engage in discriminatory practices to harm the sovereignty and economic prosperity of any ally nation. Today’s executive order makes it clear that Kentucky condemns the BDS movement and that we stand shoulder to shoulder with our friend, Israel.”
Ambassador Dermer thanked the governor for “making clear that anti-Semites are not welcome in the Bluegrass State.” By prohibiting businesses that engage in boycotts against the Jewish state from obtaining state contracts, the measure prohibits Kentucky taxpayers from being complicit in anti-Semitism.
Relations between Kentucky and Israel are robust, with Kentucky exporting nearly $85 million worth of goods to Israel last year. Over 100 Kentucky companies have benefited greatly from doing business with the Jewish State, including IBM, Jim Beam, Oshkosh B’Gosh, and Westinghouse.
Also attending last week’s ceremony was Kentucky business owner Linda Pirtle Thompson. An ardent supporter of the Jewish state and active member of Christians United for Israel, Thompson told the Haym Salomon Center:
As Christians, we are told that we should pray for and be a blessing to Israel. As citizens of the U.S., we should all oppose anti-Semitism. The BDS movement is an example of anti-Semitism disguised as political protest. Gov. Bevin’s executive order rejects the BDS movement as discriminatory and says that Kentucky will not do business with anyone who seeks to harm Israel by economic discrimination. This order is particularly timely as we have seen a rise in attacks on Israel and the Jewish people.
While BDS activists claim their movement is peaceful and about bettering the lives of Palestinians while pursuing a two-state solution, its founder Omar Barghouti has made it clear that BDS is about ending Israel’s very existence. BDS support can be found on numerous college campuses where progressive student groups and faculty have embraced the anti-Israel cause. According to the anti-Semitism watchdog group Amcha Initiative, campuses with a BDS presence have seen a rise in anti-Semitic activity.
David Brog, executive director of the Maccabee Task Force, an organization that combats anti-Semitism on college campuses, told the Haym Salomon Center:
Anti-Semitism in America today is increasingly taking the form of efforts to boycott and otherwise delegitimize the Jewish state. It’s therefore critical that we draw a bright red line separating the legitimate criticism of Israel from these anti-Semitic efforts to demonize her. Governor Bevin’s actions — along with those of 25 other states — mark a significant step forward in drawing this line and fighting this hate. He deserves our deepest appreciation.
The executive order signed into law states that “the Commonwealth of Kentucky unequivocally rejects the BDS movement and stands firmly with Israel,” noting that BDS practices threaten the sovereignty and security of a U.S. ally and friend of the Commonwealth. Prior to this, the Kentucky House of Representatives adopted House Resolution 250, opposing the BDS movement and expressing support for the sovereignty of Israel.
Bradley Martin is a Senior Fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center.