Pro & Con: House Bill 2179, a state bill set to penalize companies boycotting Israel | St. Louis Public Radio

Pro & Con: House Bill 2179, a state bill set to penalize companies boycotting Israel

Feb 22, 2018

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed the potential impact of House Bill 2179. It would prohibit Missouri from entering into contracts over $10,000 with companies that engage in the boycott of, divestment from and sanctioning of Israel, an ally of the United States.

Joining him for the discussion was Anna Baltzer, director of organizing and advocacy at the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace member and author of "Witness in Palestine," and Rori Picker Neiss, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.

Listen to the full discussion:

The bill, titled the Anti-Discrimination Against Israel Act, is part of a bipartisan effort in opposition to the global campaign, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), which intends to “end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians” through economic pressure.

The legislation includes support from Democratic Sen. Jill Schupp and Republican Sen. Mike Kehoe.

St. Louis Public Radio statehouse reporter Marshall Griffin also joined the segment to give an update on the bill’s status. A similar Senate Bill 879, sponsored by Kehoe, is ready for senate debate and will come up in debate late-March.

“The house version of the bill has also had a hearing, however it has to go through another committee before it can be taken up to the house floor for debate,” Griffin said.

PRO: Rori Picker Neiss’ main points as to why she supports the bill

  1. HB 2179 does not target individuals, just companies.
  2. Strong economic ties with Israel are good for St. Louis and Missouri.
  3. Jobs and economic ties with Israeli companies setting up North American headquarters in Missouri have increased.
  4. Israeli economy is intertwined with Palestinian economy, so the boycotts will negatively impact both economies.
  5. “When we start talking about boycotts of Israel, we’re not talking about boycotts of Israel, of the Israeli government … we’re talking about boycotts of individuals who are born as Israeli citizens; of doctors, of professors who are not being allowed to teach on college campuses or who are prevented from coming into companies in America because individuals refuse to participate in business with them for being Israeli.”

CON: Anna Baltzer’s main points as to why she opposes the bill

  1. “Discriminatory, unjust system” in Palestine led to the start of BDS movement.
  2. The bill would exceptionalize Israel’s “apartheid” practices in the region.
  3. “This argument that it’s going to harm Palestinians is exactly the same argument that was used against the BDS movement in apartheid South Africa … Palestinians are perfectly capable of building their own society.”
  4. BDS intentionally does not target Israeli individuals to avoid denial of freedom of speech, but U.S. legislation penalizing boycotts does limit First Amendment.
  5. “The people of St. Louis City and County alone are giving $21 million in weapons to Israel over the next 10 years … that’s why we need to take actions like boycott, to end our own complicity to say, ‘No, we don’t want any more dollars going to [Israel].”

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex HeuerEvie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.