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Suffolk Closeup

Suffolk Legislator Steve Stern

Suffolk Legislator Steve Stern

by Karl Grossman

The Suffolk County Legislature has unanimously passed a measure, authored by Legislator Steve Stern, barring the county from doing business with persons and businesses that boycott Israel. County Executive Steve Bellone signed the bill into law last month.
The measure challenges the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
“BDS is aimed at undermining the Israeli economy and Israel’s sovereignty and has led to intimidation and intolerance,” said Mr. Stern of Dix Hills. “The spread of BDS is not only an attack on our friend and ally, not only on the Jewish people, but on the fundamental principles of our entire nation.” Mr. Stern added that his measure “sends a strong and clear message that the people of Suffolk County stand in solidarity with Israel, today and always.”
Mr. Bellone, in signing the bill, said: “Suffolk County strongly supports the State of Israel and we will not do business with anyone who would boycott Israel. I am proud that Suffolk County lawmakers voted unanimously across party lines for Legislator Stern’s local law to align our procurement law to reflect the policy in Governor Cuomo’s executive order.”
That executive order was issued in June, shortly before the Suffolk measure was passed. It was issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo after the New York State Legislature failed to act on bills similar to those enacted by Suffolk County and also, earlier, in neighboring Nassau.
Declared Mr. Cuomo: “If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you.”
Mr. Cuomo wrote in June an op-ed column in The Washington Post: “The coldblooded terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv this week served as a chilling reminder of the summer of 2014, when a steady rain of terrorist rockets from Gaza confined the vast majority of the Israeli population to bomb shelters and protected rooms. During a visit with a bipartisan delegation that August I was shown a mile-long Hamas tunnel built to infiltrate Israel’s southern communities and murder their residents. The tunnel was frightening because it was the manifestation of the single-minded obsession by Israel’s enemies to destroy the Jewish state. And yet, in many ways it was not nearly as frightening as continued efforts to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel.”
“That is why,” Mr. Cuomo went on, he “signed the first executive order by a U.S. governor to help protect Israel from these pernicious efforts to punish it economically. My order ensures that no state agency or authority will engage in or promote any investment activity that would further the harmful and discriminatory BDS campaign. “
He said “a new front has opened in the fight against Israel’s existence,” that “there are those who seek to weaken Israel through the politics of discrimination, hatred and fear. New York will not tolerate this new brand of warfare. New York stands with Israel because we are Israel and Israel is us. Our values—freedom, democracy, liberty and the pursuit of peace—are collective, as is our drive to achieve them.”
Nassau’s bill barring the county doing business with persons or companies boycotting Israel was authored by Legislator Howard Kopel of Lawrence. “It is imperative that as a county we demonstrate to other governments the importance of fighting against all practices of hatred and discrimination,” said Mr. Kopel as the Nassau County Legislature passed his bill in May. Like Mr. Stern’s Suffolk measure, it was approved unanimously.
Mr. Kopel called the BDS movement “nothing more than thinly-veiled anti-Semitism.” He said Nassau “will not be a party to actions that violate our principle of condemning bigotry and anti-Semitism in all forms.”
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano in signing the measure commented: “Anti-Semitic policies have no place in our society, and Nassau County will not tolerate discriminatory BDS policies. Together we stand united with our ally Israel.”
And this month, on September 14, the New York City Council passed a resolution condemning “all efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel and the global movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction the people of Israel.” Authored by Councilman Andrew Cohen, it describes Israel as “far and away the most democratic and open society in the Middle East” and “an ally of the United States” with “a long-standing relationship with the City of New York.”
It states that the BDS movement “is a campaign seeking to exclude the Israeli people from the economic, cultural, and academic life of humanity.” It continues that “this movement targets not just the Israeli government but Israeli academic, cultural, and civil society institutions, as well as individual Israeli citizens of all political persuasions, and in some cases even Jews of other nationalities who support Israel” and “targets Israel and only Israel, while ignoring the world’s myriad despotic regimes.” In describes Israel as “far and away the most democratic and open society in the Middle East.”
“Both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to live in safe and secure states, free from fear and violence, with mutual recognition,” and the “BDS movement does not support the two-state solution, a goal which can only be reached through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.”

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