Press Release

McHenry, Vargas Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Fight Against Targeting of Israel

The bipartisan Combating BDS Act of 2017 counters efforts to delegitimize Israel

Washington - Last week, Chief Deputy Whip Patrick McHenry (R, NC-10) and Congressman Juan Vargas (D, CA-51) introduced H.R. 2856, the Combating BDS Act of 2017, which fights back against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that has been employed to delegitimize and isolate the state of Israel. In addition to McHenry and Vargas, the bill was introduced with a bipartisan group of six original cosponsors including Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D, NJ-05).

“The BDS movement is economic warfare against our most sacred ally,” said Chief Deputy Whip McHenry. “We have to do what is in our power to stop these hateful actions that attempt to undermine and weaken Israel. The Combating BDS Act gives our state and local governments the power to combat this by divesting from any group engaged in these wrong-headed actions.”

"I am proud to join this bipartisan effort to support local and state governments combating any attempts to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel," said Rep. Juan Vargas. "Congress must make it clear that the United States will not tolerate the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that undermines our ally and threatens its security by passing the Combating BDS Act."

“If you seek to harm Israel, a beacon of democracy and vital partner for the United States, then we will do everything in our power to stop you.” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer. “I am proud to introduce this legislation to help state and local governments financially combat this hateful movement. We must defend our ally Israel against biased attacks, and our bill does just that.”

Background: The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is used by opponents of Israel to drive a wedge between Israel’s government, businesses, universities and people from its allies around the world through the boycotting of Israeli goods, cultural institutions, universities, and divesting from Israeli companies and endowments. It has been used as a weapon to wage economic warfare against Israel and to delegitimize the country. In recent years, there have been emerging efforts in state and local governments to enact measures to divest from entities that participate in the anti-Israel BDS movement.  

H.R. 2856 strengthens these state and local efforts by affirming, at the federal level, the legal authority of those governments to take actions to counter the BDS movement’s ongoing economic warfare against Israel.  The bill clarifies that state or local governments have the legal authority to identify and divest public funds from entities engaged in the BDS movement when these designations are knowingly done and based on “credible information available to the public.” By clarifying this authority, H.R. 2856 will protect state and local governments from lawsuits alleging that they are unreasonably burdening or discriminating against interstate or foreign commerce. Additionally, by providing safe harbor for asset managers, H.R. 2856 gives states an offensive capability against any entity seeking to economically damage Israel.

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) are leading a bipartisan group of 36 Senators who have introduced a companion bill, S. 170, the Combating BDS Act.