‘If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you.”
That was the clear message sent out by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday as he ordered state agencies to divest themselves of companies and groups aligned with the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel.
More than 20 states have passed legislation to counter boycotts that target Israel, and, as JTA reports, “similar bills have been introduced in both houses of the New York State Legislature, and a Republican-sponsored bill passed the State Senate in January.”
Cuomo’s move, announced just before he marched in the Celebrate Israel Parade on Sunday, is significant in part for its sense of urgency as an executive order, the first such action in the country. The governor asserted that he wanted “immediate action,” and encouraged other governors to do the same. No doubt there was a bit of politics involved as well, given the size and clout of New York’s Jewish community, and the concern among Democratic leaders that the party’s support for Israel is seen to be slipping.
Cuomo acknowledged that when he said, “as a Democrat, I always took for granted that there was a natural relationship with Israel that was unquestionable.” Without mentioning Sen. Bernie Sanders by name, he added: “You now have aspects of the Democratic Party that are critical of Israel as being disproportionate in its response,” a reference to Sanders’ charge about Israel’s military conduct during the 2014 war with Hamas.
Gov. Cuomo’s statement and action are important because they publicize the fact that the BDS movement, at its core, seeks to undermine the authenticity of the Jewish state, blurring the line between anti-Israel politics and anti-Semitism.
We commend the governor for giving weight to his assurance that New York is Israel’s “true friend.”