In December, New Jersey officials announced that the state had divested its pension funds from Danish Danske Bank, apparently to comply with New Jersey’s anti-boycott law. The move perplexed Danske Bank officials who claim the bank is not engaged in a boycott of Israel.
New Jersey’s anti-boycott law requires the state’s pension funds to issue a blacklist of companies that boycott Israel and to divest from those companies. In 2014, Danske Bank announced that it had divested from two companies for their involvement in illegal settlement construction to abide by its corporate accountability rules. But Danske Bank’s head of responsible investments said recently that it “does not boycott Israel or Israeli companies as such,” and that its decision does not constitute a boycott of Israel.
“It’s bad enough that New Jersey enacted an unconstitutional blacklisting law reminiscent of the McCarthy era,” said staff attorney Rahul Saksena. “But for New Jersey to arbitrarily apply the law against companies that abide by minimal corporate accountability standards exposes the absurdity of these anti-boycott laws and the arbitrariness with which they are enforced.”
Other states with similar laws have issued blacklists of companies they have concluded engage in boycotts of Israel. The first state to do so, Illinois, was ridiculed in the media for arbitrarily blacklisting companies that were not engaged in boycotts of Israel.
Former Governor Chris Christie signed NJ’s anti-boycott law in 2016. As of February 2018, 24 states have enacted anti-boycott laws. Two such laws, in Kansas and Arizona, are currently being challenged in federal court. A judge has issued a preliminary injunction, blocking enforcement of the Kansas law while the litigation proceeds because, as the judge wrote, “the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law.”