Eight Communities, One Voice

Howie Beigelman, Executive Director howieb@ohiojc.org

Catherine Scheller, Legislative & Communications Assistant cscheller@ohiojc.org

614.463.1835  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 12, 2106

Ohio becomes 15th State to Act Against BDS

Legislature passes bipartisan bill banning state contracts with companies engaged in BDS against Israel or others.

Measure also includes potential to increase investment in Israel Bonds by millions.

In overwhelming, bipartisan votes, HB 476 passed both the Ohio House and Senate. Cosponsored by Rep. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), the Majority Floor Leader and Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton), it bans state contracts with businesses that boycott, divest or sanction countries with which we enjoy free trade, “including Israel.”  The legislation now heads to Governor John R. Kasich.

“Israel is a strong ally of the United States and a valuable economic partner with the State of Ohio.  It was an honor to sponsor legislation that reinforces Ohio’s commitment and support for the State of Israel,” said Representative Schuring.

"Yesterday, Ohio became the 14th state to pass anti-BDS legislation.  This anti-discrimination legislation prevents BDS efforts from gaining a foothold within the state.  This bill addresses our profound concern about discrimination against Israelis and Israeli businesses by those who oppose the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in our homeland. The state of Ohio joins other states who will not allow businesses that discriminate against Israel to conduct business with their state,” say IAN Executive Directors Geri Palast and Ethan Felson.

In addition, the bill includes language doubling (from one to two percent) the amount of funds the state treasurer or county treasurers may (but are by no means required to) invest in foreign bonds that meet certain criteria, including Israel Bonds.  That measure was co-sponsored by Rep. Robert Sprague (R-Findlay) and Rep. Steve Slesnick (D-Canton).

Rep. Sprague noted “Increasing the allowed amount of foreign debt allows us to support strong allies like Israel- when it makes sense for Ohio taxpayers.  This type of solid return and low risk investment should be a priority for us since Israel has never in its history missed a bond payment.”

“I’m pleased to see that my colleagues felt it was important to invest in Israel in a manner that helps Ohio and Ohio taxpayers as well.  In my eight and a half years in the Legislature, it’s been an honor representing not only my district, but serving all Jewish communities across Ohio, and this was a great ending note to my time in the General Assembly,” said Rep. Slesnick

Both the overall bill and this specific portion relating to investment of the state and county portfolios in bonds had the full support of Treasurer Josh Mandel.

Chris Berry, spokesman for Treasurer Mandel stated "Israel is the only country in the Middle East that shares the American values of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and treating men and women as equals. Treasurer Mandel applauds the legislature for their action on stopping the bigoted BDS movement."

"What a one-two punch to the BDS movement. First, Ohio becomes the latest state to pass legislation banning their discriminatory conduct. And then, it allows - if it makes good financial sense - for states and counties to invest in a proactive, positive action," said Howie Beigelman, executive director of Ohio Jewish Communities.

The legislation, and the advocacy behind it, were supported by a coalition "as diverse as Ohio."  In addition to Ohio Jewish Communities and the eight Jewish federations statewide, the coalition included an array of Jewish groups, human rights and civil liberties advocates, Christian supporters of Israel, and business and civic leaders.*

"With the passage of HB 476, truth prevails in Ohio over discrimination from the BDS movement," said Ed Douglas, Ohio Director of Christians United for Israel.

"This bill wouldn't have passed without an active, engaged coalition and most certainly not without the dogged commitment of our sponsors, Rep. Schuring and Leader Strahorn. Thanks as well to Speaker Rosenberger, President Faber, and President-elect Obhof who made sure this was a priority before the Legislature adjourned for the year. As well, our gratitude goes to two amazing committee chairmen, Sen. Bill Coley and former Rep. Tim Brown, who gave all sides their say and kept hearings on schedule and civil. This could not have moved without all their support or determination," said Beigelman.

Joel Marcovitch, CEO of The Jewish Federation of Greater Toledo stated "The passing of this bill represents the State's loud and clear message that boycotting the only Jewish state in the world is discriminatory in action and discriminatory based on national origin in nature. A huge debt of gratitude should go to those that made this bill possible and to those that voted on the right side of history."

In addition to the sponsors, committee chairs, and leadership there were some rank and file legislators who were instrumental Beigelman added, singling out Rep. David Leland in the House and Senator Sandra Williams.

Originally passed in the House last month, the bill was amended slightly in the Senate to any nation with which Ohio enjoys "open trade, including Israel."  While not looking to give preference to Israel, legislators and advocates alike wanted to ensure Israel was specifically mentioned since it is the only country currently facing such economic warfare.

In addition, in order to allay concerns over businesses unintentionally being caught by the bill's requirements, the definition of boycott was expanded to specifically note that legitimate business reasons wouldn't trigger the bill.

Eric Fingerhut, a former Ohio state senator and Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents who now serves as President & CEO of Hillel International, knows more than most about BDS as it affects college campuses nationally.

Fingerhut said “It’s encouraging to see Ohio and many other states around the country taking this major step forward in reaffirming their strong alliance with the State of Israel.  I am especially proud of my home state and the Ohio General Assembly, in which I served.  With the bipartisan support this legislation received, it is clear that a growing number of citizens and government leaders see the BDS movement for what it truly is. We call all those that are concerned with the future of Israel and its neighbors to join us in finding proactive solutions that bring peace and prosperity to people everywhere.”

Once signed by the Governor, Ohio will be the 15th state to combat BDS, and the 14th to do so legislatively (New York has an executive order).

*The coalition includes: Agudath Israel of America, American Jewish Committee, Christian Coalition of Ohio, Christians United for Israel, Hillel International, Israel Action Network, Israel Allies Foundation, Israel Leadership Institute, The Israel Project, JCPA, Orthodox Union, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, StandWithUs, and the World Jewish Congress.

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Howie Beigelman

Ohio Jewish Communities

614.463.1835

HowieB@ohiojc.org

Click here for more information on HB 476

Click here for OJC's statement on Governor Kasich signing HB 476

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