In February, representatives in California’s state assembly proposed AB 2844, a measure intended to weaken the growing BDS movement in the Golden State.
The original version of the bill, proposed by Democratic Assemblyman Richard Bloom and cosponsored by Republican Travis Allen, barred all state agencies from doing business with companies participating in boycotts targeting Israel.
By the time the bill was voted on and approved by the Assembly last week, however, it had been largely stripped of its original content, resulting in a vague piece of legislation bereft of any reference to Israel or the BDS movement it was intended to combat.
The title of the bill, originally named the “California Combating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel Act”, was changed to “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Recognized Sovereign Nations or Peoples Act”.
The new version gives no special protections to California trade partners – including Israel, which signed a memorandum on trade and technology in 2014 with California Governor Jerry Brown – or American allies in general.
Most importantly, the new bill drops the prohibition on state agencies to do business with companies boycotting Israel. Instead, it gives discretionary powers to the state attorney general to bar individual companies supporting boycotts on a case by case basis.
The bill must still pass the State Senate, where Bloom hopes it will be amended once again and returned to its original state.
“The bill came out with amendments that really, in my view, took the whole meaning away from the bill, stripped out all references to Israel and all of the important operative language, and turned it into something very different,” Bloom told the Jewish Journal.
“This needs to happen in the Senate and then come back. If we can’t get it done, you won’t see it again.”
But pro-Israel backers of the original bill are skeptical of the Democrat-dominated state legislature restoring AB 2844’s key components.
“The bill before us is an absolute failure and would move the pro-Israel movement backwards, not only in California, but around the country and around the globe,” said Allen.
“This bill, as revised, has absolutely nothing to do with efforts to support Israel. It is not in line with any federal policy and it would apply to boycotts of communist state-owned enterprises in Cuba just as surely as it would to Israeli companies. AB 2844 is no longer a pro-Israel bill.”
The bill’s supporters say powerful Democratic committee chairs have opposed the act, and sought to dilute it. Cristina Garcia, who chairs the Accountability Committee, has been cited as a prominent opponent of AB 2844.