While Israel is not specifically mentioned in the legislation, the law states that Michigan’s Department of Management and Budget and all state agencies “may not enter into a contract with a person to acquire or dispose of supplies, services, or information technology unless the contract includes a representation that the person is not currently engaged in, and an agreement that the person will not engage in, the boycott of a person based in or doing business with a strategic partner.”
“This bill sends a strong statement that the State of Michigan stands with Israel, which has long been an important trading partner of Michigan,” said David Kurzmann, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC. “This is a significant step against prejudice. It will solidify that relationship and prevent companies which boycott Israel based on national origin from doing business with the state of Michigan.”
The law follows the passage of similar measures in Pennsylvania, Illinois, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Georgia, Colorado, Florida, Alabama, California, New Jersey and Ohio. New York governor Andrew Cuomo approved a similar measure by executive order.
Advocates of these measures have emphasized that they do not raise any First Amendment issues, as private parties are still free to boycott Israel. Furthermore, states may be obligated to avoid promoting or supporting discrimination based on religion, race, or nationality.
The measures reflect an understanding that the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement “is not like the civil rights protests, as its supporters love to claim, but rather more like the anti-Jewish boycotts so common in Europe in the 20th century, and in the Arab world until this day,” Northwestern University Law School professor Eugene Kontorovich wrote in The Washington Post last year after a similar measure was signed into law in Illinois.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s political party, the Christian Democratic Union, echoed this criticism in December, passing a resolution stating that the party “declares with this motion its disapproval and rejection of every form of BDS activity and condemns these activities as anti-Semitic.”
Many BDS leaders have publicly opposed the two-state solution and affirmed that the movement seeks Israel’s destruction. Omar Barghouti, the co-founder of the movement, said in 2014 that Palestinians have a right to “resistance by any means, including armed resistance.” Leading activist As’ad Abu Khalil wrote in 2012 that “Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”