Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an executive order Tuesday night (May 22) prohibiting Louisiana state government from doing business with companies that boycott Israel.
The order directs the state commissioner of administration, Jay Dardenne, to terminate existing state contracts with companies if they are currently boycotting Israel or supporting those who do so. Moving forward, companies will be required to sign an agreement certifying that they aren’t boycotting Israel before being awarded a state contract.
The prohibition will not be applied to companies that have contracts with the state that total less than $100,000 or that have fewer than five employees, according to the executive order.
Edwards issued the order on the same night he was celebrating the 70th anniversary of Israel at the governor’s mansion. The Louisiana House also honored Israel at the opening of their special session Tuesday afternoon.
“The United States, and by affiliation Louisiana, have benefited in innumerable ways from our deep friendship with Israel. Any effort to boycott Israel is an affront to this longstanding relationship. I am pleased that Louisiana will join what is now a critical mass of states in supporting our closest ally,” Edwards, a Democrat, said in a written statement Tuesday night.
The governor’s office said 24 other states have already passed or implemented similar measures, including nearby Arkansas. Such proposals have been pushed nationwide by the American Legislative Exchange Council and other politically conservative advocacy groups.
They are meant to counter the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which calls for people to stop doing business with Israel due to the country’s treatment of Palestinians.
dwards’ executive order specifically mentions BDS, and a hope to pushback on the movement’s goals of isolating Israel with his proposal. “The state of Louisiana unequivocally rejects the BDS campaign and stands firmly with Israel,” reads Edwards’ order.
Read the full executive order here.
Some states have been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union already for implementing such measures. The group represented a school teacher in Kansas who refused to agree to stop boycotting Israel while working for the state. The ACLU brought a similar lawsuit in Arizona on behalf of a man who gives legal advice to a local jail and refused to sign a written statement that he wouldn’t boycott Israel.
In both cases, the ACLU has argued that the prohibition violates a person’s constitutional right to free speech. Governments shouldn’t be able to discriminate against businesses that participate in political boycotts, according to the ACLU.
This isn’t the first time that a ban on companies who boycott Israel has come up in Louisiana state government.
Last year, state Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, attempted to get a bill passed that would have prevented benefit plans for state public workers from investing in companies that boycott Israel. But the provisions related to Israel were stripped out of the legislation before it passed the House — and the measure failed entirely in the Senate.
Earlier this year, the New Orleans City Council took heat for approving a resolution that was considered sympathetic to the BDS movement and pro-Palestinian causes.
The resolution, which did not reference the BDS movement directly, was set up a process to review city investments in countries that commit human rights abuses. Members of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee said that Israel would be a target of that process, but that other nations would as well.
In the end, the city council ending up scrapping the measure altogether after receiving pushback from the Jewish community. The Greater New Orleans Jewish Federation called the council’s resolution anti-Semitic and anti-Israel.