Gov. Cuomo: NY must divest funds linked to Israel boycotts

AP News
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Posted: Jun 05, 2016 8:44 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday issued the first executive order in the country that forces state entities to drop investments linked to boycotts of Israel.

The Democratic governor expects state agencies to divest all public funds from any company or individual with ties to the movement known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. BDS was founded in 2005 to protest Israel's actions toward Palestinians by boycotting Israeli products and companies.

Cuomo says New York will boycott anyone who is boycotting Israel.

"This order sends the message that this state will do everything in its power to end this hateful, intolerant campaign," the governor said. "New York and Israel share an unbreakable bond and I pray that the Israeli and Palestinian people will find a way to live side by side and find peace, prosperity and security."

Cuomo signed the order at Manhattan's Harvard Club before marching in the annual Celebrate Israel parade.

Based on the governor's action, state officials must now compile a list of businesses and groups engaged in any "boycott, divestment or sanctions targeting Israel, directly or through a parent or subsidiary."

The list will be assembled using "credible information available to the public," according to the order, and those who end up on the list may appeal.

A leading constitutional rights attorney calls the action "21st century McCarthyism."

Baher Azmy, the legal director of the New York-based nonprofit Center for Constitutional Rights, said that with the executive order, Cuomo bypassed the state legislature and what Azmy called "the possibility of a bona fide debate on the American tradition of boycotting in support of social justice."

In addition, Cuomo's action violates the First Amendment protection of free speech, Azmy said.

"Cuomo's action has the ugliest attributes of McCarthyism: identifying organizations that engage in speech we dislike and, 'Let's blacklist them,'" said Azmy. "This is a well-orchestrated, well-funded, organized strategy to disproportionately punish U.S.-based activists. Really ugly."

The United Jewish Appeal in New York, however, praised Cuomo for being the first governor to issue an executive order opposing BDS.

In a statement, CEO Eric S. Goldstein said his organization is "proud that the governor of New York state has taken this historic action to stand with Israel and reject the BDS movement."