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Santa Monica Assemblyman Proposes Own Bill Against Anti-Israel Boycott
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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

April 5, 2016 -- Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, said Monday that he is authoring a new bill that would prohibit any public agency in California from doing business with companies involved in a controversial boycott of Israel, calling the boycott “arbitrary and discriminatory.”

Bloom, whose 50th District is home to one of California’s largest Jewish populations, said AB 2844 bars any state agency from entering into a contract with a company participating in the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (or BDS) movement against Israel.

“The people of the United States and Israel have a unique and special bond based on shared values reflected in the virtues and principles of freedom and democracy,” Bloom said in a Sacramento news conference attended by other Democratic lawmakers, including the head of the legislature’s Jewish Caucus.

“For these reasons we have stood together as allies since the rebirth of the modern State of Israel,” said Bloom, a former Santa Monica mayor.

Bloom, a Caucus member, is splitting from a bill he originally co-authored -- AB 1522, sponsored by Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen of Huntington Beach in January and now stalled in the Legislature.

Bloom told the Lookout News on Monday that Allen had failed to win the support of the Legislative Jewish Caucus, prompting him –- at the request of fellow Caucus members –- to bolt and go his own way.

Allen’s supporters have accused Bloom of trying to co-opt the bill for political gain, noting that Bloom faces re-election in November.

Bloom denied the accusation and said Allen had failed to involve all of the Jewish Caucus members, as he should have done.

Allen was not available for comment.

“That is the protocol,” Bloom said. “I tried to work with Allen. It didn’t work out. I’m sorry if this all sounds like it’s right out of junior high school.

"I’d rather not go into the sordid details. I don’t want to dwell on what happened.”

In general, both bills would stop the state from doing business with companies involved in the anti-Israel BDS effort, which was started around 2004 over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is trying to make its reach global.

Israel is California’s 18th-largest export partner, and the Legislature’s potential involvement with the boycott has caused conflict, especially for the state’s Jewish leaders.

Bloom’s AB 2844 prohibits any state agency from entering into contracts with companies that are part of the boycott or force such companies to take “immediate action” if they want to hold onto their contracts.

“Companies adhering to boycotts of Israel undermine the aforesaid policy and purpose of encouraging trade, business, and academic cooperation between California and Israel,” Bloom said.

“Therefore, it is in the best interest of the State of California that it not contract with any company participating in a boycott of Israel.”

Bloom said his bill already has the support of such organizations as the American Jewish Committee, Jewish Public Affairs Council, Israeli-American Nexus, Simon Wiesenthal Center and Agudath Israel of California.

His announcement of the new legislation was attended by State Senator Marty Block (D-San Diego), Chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, along with eight other state legislators.

The bill will likely be heard in its first committee sometime later this month, Bloom said.

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