New York Will Now Boycott Those Who Boycott Israel

Critics say people's right to free speech will be infringed.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on Sunday, commanding government agencies to divest funds from, and refuse to do business with, companies and groups participating in the Palestinian-backed boycott of Israel.

In what his office said was a national first, Cuomo's order directed the Commissioner of the Office of General Services to begin preparing a public list of groups that "participate in boycott, divestment, or sanctions ["BDS"] activity targeting Israel, either directly or through a parent or subsidiary."

State agencies and departments will then be required to divest money and assets from such groups and will be forbidden from investing in them in the future.

New York's legislature has previously considered similar bills, but Gov. Cuomo said an executive order was needed to take urgent action because "Israel is under attack."

“We cannot allow that to happen,” he said. “If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you.”

"This order sends the message that this state will do everything in its power to end this hateful, intolerant campaign," he said.

Today's Executive Order directs state entities to divest all public funds supporting the BDS campaign against Israel

A heated issue on many college campuses, the so-called BDS movement began in 2005 and calls for groups to apply economic pressure to Israel in order to achieve Palestinian independence.

Speaking to the New York Times, BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti characterized Cuomo's order as Israeli-assisted "legal warfare" against the movement.

“Having lost many battles for hearts and minds at the grass-roots level, Israel has adopted since 2014 a new strategy to criminalize support for BDS from the top,” he said.

In May, the Freedom to Boycott Coalition wrote to New York state legislators calling on them to oppose similar anti-BDS bills, which they described as unconstitutional.

"Should such a bill become law, it would chill and deter constitutionally protected speech by intimidating people from engaging in political actions for fear of being blacklisted," the group wrote.

On Twitter, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer thanked Cuomo for his "strong stance against the BDS movement."

New York has the largest population of Jewish residents outside Israel, and Cuomo travelled there in 2014.

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