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New Jersey becomes 11th state to pass anti-BDS measure

New Jersey became the latest state to pass legislation against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement yesterday. By a 69-3 vote, the State Assembly passed a bill to prohibit pension fund investment in pro-boycott companies.

The legislation had passed the State Senate in May by a 39-0 vote. Now that both the Assembly and Senate have passed the legislation, it goes to Governor Chris Christie, who is expected to sign the bill.

Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a Democrat who represents Bergen, New Jersey,told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the bill was about “bringing together people and making sure we don’t promote anti-Semitism.” The news outlet also reported that a spokesman for the New Jersey Treasury Department said they were not aware of any investments that would violate the law. A division of the department will be tasked with investigating if the state is indeed invested in pro-BDS entities.

The move by the State Assembly is a defeat for a coalition of civil liberties and pro-Palestine groups in New Jersey, who had mobilized in recent months to try and defeat the legislation. They said the bill is an attack on the First Amendment right to boycott Israel. Opponents also say that, in the state’s effort to determine which company violates the law, New Jersey would be creating a McCarthy-like “blacklist” that would necessitate investigation into people’s political beliefs.

New Jersey is now the eleventh state in the past year to pass anti-BDS legislation, according to Palestine Legal. Nine of those states’ governors have signed the bills into law. They range from bills, like in New Jersey, that prohibit pension fund investment in entities that boycott Israel or measures that bar state contracts or funding with institutions that support BDS. California and Pennsylvania are also considering anti-BDS measures. Earlier this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo made headlines when he issued a first-of-its-kindexecutive order directing agencies under his authority to investigate entities that support BDS and receive New York funds, put those entities on a list, and then strip them of cash from the state.

Pro-Israel groups have backed and lobbied for anti-BDS bills. After the New Jersey Assembly passed their own bill, Josh Block, former AIPAC spokesperson Josh Block and current head of The Israel Project, commended “the people of New Jersey and their elected officials for strongly standing up against baseless anti-Israel discrimination.”

The New Jersey bill passed both the Assembly and Senate despite opposition from groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American Civil Liberties Union. The New Jersey chapter of the ACLU delivered a letter this month to legislation harshly criticizing the bill. “The legislation, which attempts to punish companies that support boycotts of Israel or Israeli businesses, would unconstitutionally penalize people for what they think and say,” the group wrote. “Troublingly, the legislation mandates that the government launch investigations to determine which people’s political positions require their placement on a legislatively directed ‘blacklist.’”

New Jersey newspapers also blasted the bill. The New Jersey Star-Ledger said the legislationtakes “Big Brother to the extreme” in a scathing editorial.

But the opposition was taking on legislators unlikely to heed their calls. Pro-Israel sentiment is a virtual given in state legislatures across the country. Governors are no different. Governor Christie has not deviated from the standard pro-Israel line. He will likely sign the legislation, and make New Jersey the 10th state to make an anti-BDS measure law.

Still, opponents of these laws may have their day in court. Legal groups have warned that such bills are unconstitutional, setting up a potential court fight over whether prohibiting state funds to pro-BDS entities is legal under the U.S. Constitution.

- See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/06/jersey-becomes-measure/#sthash.8JJwm16n.dpufSchermata 2016 06 29 alle 21.20.28

Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives. http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.802141

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