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Cuomo, Fighting Boycott Against Israel, Will Halt State Business With Groups That Back It

Cuomo, Fighting Boycott Against Israel, Will Halt State Business With Groups That Back It

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York is planning to order agencies under his control to divest themselves of companies and organizations aligned with a Palestinian-backed boycott movement against Israel.

Wading into a delicate international issue, Mr. Cuomo will set executive-branch and other state agencies in opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or B.D.S., which has grown in popularity in some quarters of the United States and elsewhere, alarming Jewish leaders who fear its toll on Israel’s international image and economy.

Several states have moved to support Israel and prevent their governments and agencies from doing business with companies or individuals that endorse the boycotts. Similar bills are currently pending in both houses of the New York Legislature.

But on Sunday, Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, intends to flex his executive power a more familiar demonstration in the governor’s second term — to expedite such action.

According to a draft version of an executive order obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Cuomo will command the commissioner of the Office of General Services to devise a list over the next six months of businesses and groups engaged in any “boycott, divestment or sanctions activity targeting Israel, either directly or through a parent or subsidiary.”

The list will be compiled from “credible information available to the public,” according to the order, and subject to appeal by the companies and entities included on it. Once the designation process is completed, however, all executive-branch agencies and departments — which makes up a large portion of state government — as well as public boards, authorities, commissions and all public-benefit corporations will be required to divest themselves of any company on the list.

Mr. Cuomo plans to announce his order at a speech on Sunday morning at the Harvard Club in Manhattan before marching in the Celebrate Israel parade.

Alphonso David, the counsel to the governor, said in an interview that the executive action was meant to send a clear message that New York did not approve of the Palestinian-backed campaign.

“Our position is the B.D.S. movement is deplorable, tailored to penalize Israel and tailored to inflict economic harm,” Mr. David said. “So we take issue with it.”

With the largest population of Jewish residents outside Israel, New York has outsize symbolic, and political, value in the debate over the Middle East. For his part, Mr. Cuomo has shown increased willingness in recent years to get involved in international issues, including a short trip to Israel in 2014 with a state delegation.

The B.D.S. movement, started in 2005, has become a contentious issue on some American college campuses and far beyond. Supporters say the campaign aims to pressure Israel economically over its treatment of Palestine and to further Palestinian independence. Opponents say the efforts are a thinly disguised, anti-Semitic attempt to deeply hurt or even destroy Israel.

Omar Barghouti, a founder of the movement, said he did not find the actions by states like New York surprising, calling such proposals part of Israel’s “legal warfare against B.D.S.”

“Having lost many battles for hearts and minds at the grass-roots level, Israel has adopted since 2014 a new strategy to criminalize support for B.D.S. from the top,” he said in an email, adding that such actions were meant to “shield Israel from accountability.”

Mr. Barghouti added that Israel was supporting efforts by states to try to “delegitimize the boycott, a time-honored tactic of resisting injustice in the U.S. and a form of protected speech.”

Mr. David said the governor’s order was not meant to be interpreted as “opining on actions taken to empower Palestinians,” or meant to discourage debate over Israeli actions in the Middle East. Rather, it intends to stake a position on a movement that “the State of New York unequivocally rejects,” as the order puts it.

“It’s one thing to say I want to engage in political speech,” Mr. David said. “It’s another thing to say I’m going to sanction you or penalize you for engaging in commercial activity.”

He added that although he did not know how many companies that do business with the state had endorsed or engaged in the B.D.S. movement, “we anticipate it’s going to be quite significant.”

Courtesy : nytimes.com



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