Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill Thursday banning the state from investing in companies that boycott Israel.
Sponsored by Republicans, House Bill 161 passed the General Assembly with large majorities.
“This bill shows our support for Israel as a friend and ally of the United States,” said Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Guilford. “North Carolina does an extensive amount of trade with Israel on an annual basis and we have common values.”
The law goes into effect October 1. The State Treasurer’s Office then will create a policy for canceling state-funded investments of companies that boycott Israel, and create a list of companies that violate the policy.
The office will contact those companies, and give them time to halt their boycotts before the state finally divests. The law may take up to a year to be implemented fully.
The law defines a boycott of Israel as a company’s refusal to do business within the country for non-business reasons at a level of more than $20 million per year. State contracts with such companies amounting to less than $1,000 are exempted from the divestment plan.
Boycotts and divestments are used by some organizations to protest Israel’s claim over the West Bank and Gaza Strip, areas hotly contested between the country and Palestinian Muslims.
One pro-Israel advocate says it is vital that North Carolina support its Middle Eastern ally.
“The [Boycott Divest and Sanction Israel] campaign is an economic means to delegitimize the state of Israel,” said Danielle Adler, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and former leader of the group Heels for Israel. “Agendas supported by groups that seek to pursue economic battles like this against Israel go against principles many North Carolinians and those across the U.S. agree with.”
Opponents of the boycott say North Carolina is unnecessarily getting involved in international politics and has chosen the wrong side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Jewish Voice for Peace believes that Israel stole land belonging to the Palestinian people. The group argued against the boycott’s passage and considers it a First Amendment violation.
“It is part of a repressive tactic of silencing free speech and preventing protests,” said Sandra Korn of the group’s Triangle chapter. “This bill is part of a larger movement to silence dissent.”
Korn said the boycott threatens any existing state relationships with religious organizations that have divested from Israel, including the Presbyterian Church (USA).
North Carolina’s foray into international boycotts and divestments is not new. The law also updated existing state boycotts of groups that do business with Sudan and Iran, so that all state boycotts are followed similarly.