In Annapolis this afternoon, Oct. 23, Gov. Larry Hogan signed an executive order prohibiting all executive branch agencies and firms with state contracts from participating in the boycott of the state of Israel.

The order aims to undermine the international Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions movement, which advocates that companies refuse to conduct business with the Jewish state. The BDS movement is opposed to the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his administration.

“BDS is a discriminatory campaign designed to undermine global trade with Israel,” said Hogan.

In addition, the governor called on the board of trustees of the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System “to take divestment action with regard to any companies that hold investments with entities who participate in the BDS movement.”

Pro-Israel groups across the country advocate that states enact anti-BDS measures. Some critics of the anti-BDS movement say boycotts violate the First Amendment.

“I disagree,” said Hogan, when asked about pro-BDS sentiments. “BDS is discriminatory. They are asking people to discriminate against Israel. That is clear to me.”

The executive order reinforces the strong commercial relationship between Maryland and Israel. The state is home to more than 30 Israeli businesses, and the export relationship between Maryland and Israel reached a record high in 2015 with more than $145 million in product exports.

In 2016, Hogan led a delegation of state officials, business leaders and Jewish community leaders on a cultural and economic development trade mission to Israel.

“Israel is a robust democracy with many rights and freedoms that don’t exist in neighboring countries or across much of the world,” Hogan said. “The shameful BDS movement seeks to undercut those rights and freedoms, using economic discrimination and fear, by boycotting Israeli companies and prohibiting them from doing business in the United States.

“The goals of this movement run counter to the strong economic relationship that Maryland has sustained with our friends and partners in Israel,” he said. “As long as I am governor of Maryland, there is no place in our state for boycotts and threats which seek to undermine sincere dialogue, compromise, and cooperation.”

In a statement, the Baltimore Jewish Council said, “We are grateful to Governor Hogan and his administration for taking this vital action and proud to know that state funding will not be used to support the discrimination and unfair business practices of the BDS movement.”

Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at the Oct. 23 press conference announcing the Executive Order “Prohibiting Discriminatory Boycotts of Israel in State Procurement.” (Photo by Pete Arnold)

Among the national and local Jewish leaders on hand for the signing of the order were Linda A. Hurwitz, chair of the board of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore; Associated President and CEO Marc B. Terrill; BJC President Abba David Poliakoff; BJC Executive Director Howard Libit; BJC Vice President Yehuda Neuberger; Barry Bogage, executive director of the Maryland/Israel Development Center; and Alan S. Ronkin, executive director of the American Jewish Committee.

Also in attendance was Reuven Azar, deputy head of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. “The State of Israel is thankful for the steadfast support of Governor Hogan and the people of Maryland against those who wish to de-legitimize it,” said Azar.

Said Hurwitz: “I commend Governor Hogan and his administration for their vocal strength of support and the signing of this significant executive order on behalf of our state of Maryland. All of us in the Baltimore Jewish community are proud to live in a state with such a sustained record of collaboration and cooperation with Israel.”

In his concluding remarks, Hogan said, “Maryland will continue to strengthen our long-standing relationship with Israel. Collaboration with Israel has produced notable achievements in medicine, health care and bio-technology, and important advancements in cyber-technology and homeland and national security. We look forward to a great deal of further collaboration and cooperation.  This effort to stand in solidarity with Israel against the BDS movement will help us ensure that our state’s cultural and business ties with Israel will remain strong and continue to grow.”

After the press conference, Terrill said he believes that Hogan’s executive order “has obvious implications for Israel in terms of its legitimacy. But in terms of what it means for the State of Maryland, this once again shows that leadership leads. Talk can be appropriate, but walking the walk is what we saw Governor Hogan and his administration do on this very important issue for people who value democracy.”

In an unrelated matter, Hogan was also asked by Jmore about the potential opening of Baltimore County schools during the High Holiday season.

“I think it’s a terrible mistake for a school board to do something like that,” he said.”There’s really no need for it. They have a number of other ways to work it out [be open 180 days for instruction between Labor Day and June 15th]. We’re absolutely opposed to schools being [open] on the Jewish High Holy Days.”

Peter Arnold is an Olney, Md.-based freelance journalist.

Top Photo: Flanking Gov. Larry Hogan (third from left) are BJC Executive Director Howard Libit, BJC Vice President Yehuda Neuberger, Associated Chair of the Board Linda A. Hurwitz, Associated President and CEO Marc B. Terrill, BJC President Abba Poliakoff, BJC Director of Government Relations Sarah Mersky, and Associated Chief of Staff Michelle Gordon.

More In Maryland

All In Maryland »