By John Celock
Kansas lawmakers have advanced legislation that would prohibit the state entering into contracts with companies and people engaged in a boycott of Israel.
The state House of Representatives advanced the legislation Tuesday that would add the state to the list of those trying to stop the boycott, divest and sanction Israel for settlements in the West Bank. The legislation comes as 17 other states have passed similar laws impacting state contracts and investments.
“Stand in support of an important trade partner of both the United States and Kansas,” House General Government Budget Committee Chairman Bill Sutton (R-Gardiner) said.
Sutton said that Kansas currently has $57 million in exports going to Israel and the state imports $84 million in products from Israel. He noted that multiple Israeli companies are currently opening offices in Kansas, including those engaged in the agriculture, water and bioscience industries.
Sutton said it was important that Kansas stand with Israel in order to protect the economic relationship and to show support for Israel’s place in the world.
Democrats appeared divided over the legislation with General Government Budget Committee Ranking Minority Member Tom Burroughs (D-Kansas City) saying that while he supports the bill he would be encouraging his party to follow their own thoughts on the legislation. During his floor speech Burroughs noted that the Democratic Caucus had debated the need for the bill and possibly replacing it with a resolution condemning boycotts of Israel.
Rep. Boog Highberger (D-Lawrence) said that he was opposing the bill because he was opposed to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
“I think that it is very important to note that this is the 50th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank of the Gaza Strip by Israel,” Higherberger said. ‘The West Bank is not an occupation it is an open air concentration camp.”
Burroughs said that he had consulted with military leaders who said that it was important to support Israel.
“This is one of the democratic areas we have in that area of the world,” Burroughs said. “To stand with democracy then you should support.”