TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Beach and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg that would prohibit the investment of New Jersey public employee pension and annuity funds in any company that boycotts Israel or Israeli businesses cleared the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee today.
“As a state and nation, we have a long-standing relationship with Israel and a common bond that is rooted in the values of freedom and democracy,” said Senator Beach (D-Camden). “We must take a stand against any efforts to boycott Israeli goods, products and businesses as a way to harm the state. By banning investments in companies that participate in these punitive activities, we demonstrate our commitment to supporting and maintaining the strong relationship that has existed between New Jersey and Israel for years.”
The bill (S-1923) seeks to address the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) effort to boycott Israeli goods, products and businesses. The bill would prohibit the assets of any pension or annuity fund under the jurisdiction of the Division of Investment from being invested in any company that boycotts goods, products or businesses of Israel.
Under the bill, the State Investment Council and the Director of the Division of Investment would be required to identify companies that violate the prohibition within 60 days after the effective date of the bill and to divest any investment held in violation of the prohibition within 18 months of the bill’s effective date. An annual progress report by the division regarding these divestments would be also required by the bill
The prohibition would not apply to the activities of any company providing humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people through either a governmental or nongovernmental organization unless it is also engaging in prohibited boycotts.
“Nationality-based boycotts are discriminatory and they are just plain wrong. New Jersey cannot support such practices,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “Our state has a long history of friendship and economic cooperation with Israel, and by taking this action we are not only sending a message about where we stand – we are taking a stand.”
More than $1.3 billion in goods and services are traded annually between New Jersey and Israel. The Illinois Legislature recently passed similar legislation restricting investment of its pension fund in companies that boycott Israel.
The bill was released from the State Government Committee with a vote of 4-0. It now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration.