Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order on Monday that prohibits the state from doing business with companies engaged in a boycott of Israel.
Hogan took the executive action against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement , an effort started in 2005 by a coalition of Palestinian organizations in response to Israel's occupation of the West Bank territory. BDS activities include discouraging the purchase of goods produced in Israeli settlements and pressuring international companies not to conduct business in Israel.
"Boycotts based on religion, national origin, place of residence or ethnicity are discriminatory," Hogan said, standing with Jewish leaders from Baltimore and Montgomery counties. "Contracting with businesses that practice discrimination would make the state a passive participant in private-sector commercial discrimination."
Hogan said all future requests for state bids will include language that the company has not refused to do business with or stopped doing business with any person or entity on the basis of Israeli national origin.
The order also calls for the state to terminate any contracts with companies that participate in a boycott of Israel. Hogan said he was unaware of any contracts at risk of being terminated under the order but added that a review would take place. The order also calls for barring the state pension system from investing in companies engaged in an Israel-related boycott, a move that some say would require legislation to enforce.
The executive order mirrors legislation that failed to receive a committee vote in the General Assembly last session. According to legislative analysts, states including Illinois, New York and South Carolina have taken similar steps.
Del. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Montgomery), who sponsored the failed bill, called the governor's order "an important first step to make it clear that Maryland's public policy is not to utilize taxpayer dollars for a bigoted boycott targeting the only nation on this planet with a majority Jewish population."
Kramer and Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), also a lead sponsor of last year's legislation, said they plan to introduce legislation next session that addresses pension-system investments.
Jewish leaders have pushed for the legislation for years.
Hogan, who led a trade mission to Israel in September 2016, has been cultivating ties with Jewish communities in Maryland. He has visited Jewish schools in Baltimore and Montgomery counties; hosted a Hanukkah party at Government House; and attended a Sabbath dinner at a Montgomery County synagogue.