TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Beach, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Senator Raymond Lesniak 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 full Senate today.
“Any effort to boycott Israeli goods, products and businesses is not only contrary to New Jersey’s values, but it is against federal policy articulated in numerous laws. We have a long history of friendship with Israel based on economic, cultural, and intellectual exchange and political cooperation, and will not stand for discriminatory practices intended to harm the state,” said Senator Beach (D-Camden). “Banning investments in companies that participate in these punitive activities solidifies 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
“New Jersey cannot support such biased practices as those of the BDS against our sister state,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen). “Israel has long been a vibrant trading partner, ally and friend with our state, and making sure that we are not investing in any company that seeks to hurt the interests of Israel or its people through boycotts, divestments and sanctions will send a clear message that we stand against this kind of veiled discrimination.”
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.
“There are some who are trying to cut off the free flow of financial investments as a political or ideological weapon to harm Israel and to undermine the strong relationship between our two countries,” said Senator Lesniak (D-Union). “We have a special bond with Israel and its people that we should protect and preserve. This bill will have a practical impact on investments and it also sends a strong message about our commitment to the values we share.”
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 cleared the Senate with a vote of 39-0. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.