The N.C. House voted 88-21 Thursday to cut any business ties North Carolina might have with companies that boycott Israel.
House Bill 161 would ban state agencies from contracting with any companies that boycott the country, and no state pension funds could include investments in such companies. The state treasurer’s office would be responsible for keeping a list of blacklisted companies.
“This is a good opportunity for us to say to Israel, ‘we are with you,’” said Rep. Larry Pittman, a Concord Republican. “There are those who deny Israel’s right to exist as a nation, and I think if we do not give Israel this kind of support, we encourage that. I hope we will stand with Israel today.”
One of the bill’s sponsors, Republican Rep. Jon Hardister of Greensboro, read a letter from the state’s Jewish Federation in support of the bill.
But Rep. Philip Lehman, a Durham Democrat, said the bill is unnecessary because no American companies are currently boycotting Israel.
“We are wading into foreign relations here,” he said. “This is not something that the state of North Carolina needs to get into.”
Lehman said he’s concerned the bill could have unintended consequences for schools run by church denominations that boycott Israel.
About half of House Democrats joined Lehman in opposing the bill, while the other half voted yes. The legislation now heads to the Senate.