PHOENIX — A House panel voted Wednesday to stop Arizona from doing business with firms that boycott Israel, and to direct pension funds and the state treasurer to sell their shares in those companies.
The unanimous vote by the House Committee on Federalism and States Rights came at the behest of House Speaker David Gowan, who is trying to get traction in his bid for Congress. It could gain him the support of an important constituency: Every one who testified in favor of HB 2617 is Jewish.
Gowan, who is running in a crowded GOP race in Congressional District 1, said the legislation is a counter to a growing movement by supporters of Palestinians to convince pension funds to divest from companies that do business with Israel. He said those companies include Boeing and Caterpillar, firms that both have a presence in Arizona.
He said that movement is “anti Semitic.” “This bill is aimed at showing Arizona’s supportive of Israel, its strongest ally in the Middle East,” he said. “Nobody should be doing things for bigotry.”
Former Republican state Rep. Adam Kwasman said the legislation will help buffer other Arizona firms that may be facing challenges because of their business contacts with Israel. He specifically cited Raytheon, which Kwasman noted helped develop the “Iron Dome” anti-missile system for that country.
“The economic benefit to both the state of Arizona and to Israel has been tremendous,” he said.
Former Republican state Sen. Barbara Leff, who has made several trips to Israel, said boycotts hurt not only Israeli citizens but also Palestinians living on the occupied West Bank who work at factories there. “They were for the first time able to get good-paying jobs, full health benefits,” she said. “They were happy.”