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Gov. Hogan's Israel executive order supports democracy in Md. and the Middle East

Gov. Larry Hogan's decision last week to issue an executive order blocking procurement contracts for companies engaged in a boycott of Israel emphatically affirms our state's commitment to support the only real democracy in the Middle East and does so without violating the First Amendment rights of individual Marylanders.

Governor Hogan joined New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and 21 other governors or legislatures from both red states and blue states in taking action against those companies that boycott Israel.

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The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement — known as BDS — is not the work of organizations that object to the policies of the Netanyahu government. Instead, it is an effort to delegitimize the state of Israel and ultimately deny Israel's right to exist.

The movement's founders have been very clear on this point, even if some BDS supporters choose to ignore that goal and think that they are only making a statement in support of Palestinian rights. Leading BDS activist Ahmed Moor has said, "BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state."

There is little difference between today's BDS campaign and the Arab League boycott against Israel in the 1970s — a boycott that has long been prohibited by federal law.

Let's be clear: The governor's executive order has nothing to do with infringing any person's right to free speech. Those who wish to protest Israel are still permitted to voice their opinions, and individual Marylanders can, if they so choose, avoid doing business with Israel.

The governor's order affects "business entities" that boycott Israel. An entity, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "an organization (such as a business or a governmental unit) that has a legal identity apart from its members or owners."

A teacher was denied a job in Kansas because she supported the BDS boycott. That could not happen here. An individual is not a business entity. We are not in Kansas.

This is not the first time that Maryland has denied companies the opportunity to do business with the state because of their dealings with other countries. Our laws empower the state to use its economic power to deter companies from helping Iran acquire nuclear weapons or aiding in Sudanese government repression.

Governor Hogan and the state of Maryland have the right to choose to spend taxpayer dollars in a way that reflects our economic and moral values. Do we want our taxpayer dollars to support companies engaged in an economic campaign to destroy the homeland of the Jewish people? We believe that the answer to this question is "no," and we are pleased that Governor Hogan agrees.

In another op-ed, two of our legislative colleagues incorrectly state that the executive order also directs changes to the state pension system. While the governor publicly called on the pension board to divest from companies engaged in the BDS movement, the executive order says nothing of the sort. The General Assembly will have the opportunity in the next legislative session to consider whether the state should divest its pension fund from companies that engage in BDS. We believe, like so many other supporters of Israel, that to achieve a lasting and equitable peace in the Middle East, there must be direct and forthright negotiations between Israel, the Palestinian people, and neighboring countries. But seeking to delegitimize Israel through economic means will do nothing to bring about such negotiations.

Israel forged treaties with Egypt and Jordan without such discriminatory boycotts. Attempting to isolate Israel through BDS will just push peace further away.

Our state has developed deep economic relationships with the state of Israel. We are proud to be home to so many U.S. headquarters of Israeli companies in such growing fields as cybersecurity and health care. As the 23rd state to formally join the fight against the BDS movement, we are reaffirming our long-term commitment to see this partnership flourish, and we have done so in a way that respects the rights of those who disagree.

Del. Samuel I. "Sandy" Rosenberg (samuel.rosenberg@house.state.md.us) represents Baltimore City in the Maryland House of Delegates. Del. Shelly Hettleman (shelly.hettleman@house.state.md.us) represents Baltimore County. They are both Democrats.

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