States use anti-boycott laws to punish responsible businesses

Demonstrators protest against a law that bars the state from investing in companies that support boycotts of Israel, New York City, Jun 9, 2016. (photo: Mark Apollo / Pacific Press / LightRocket via Getty Images)
Laws penalize companies that cut ties with Israeli settlements.

By Human Rights Watch | Apr 23, 2019

‘States with anti-boycott laws are effectively telling companies that if you do the right thing and disentangle yourselves from settlement abuses, you can’t do business with us. States should encourage, not sanction, companies that avoid contributing to rights abuses.’
— Andrea Prasow, deputy US advocacy director at Human Rights Watch

Many United States states are using anti-boycott laws and executive orders to punish companies that refuse to do business with illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Human Rights Watch said today. More than 250 million Americans, some 78 percent of the population, live in states with anti-boycott laws or policies.

Twenty-seven states have adopted laws or policies that penalize businesses, organizations, or individuals that engage in or call for boycotts against Israel. The laws or policies in 17 of those states explicitly target not only companies that refuse to do business in or with Israel, but also those that refuse to do business in Israeli settlements. Some states whose laws do not explicitly apply to settlements have also penalized companies that cut settlement ties. . . .

It is impossible to do business in the settlements without contributing to or benefitting from human rights abuse and violations of international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch has said. Anti-boycott laws aim to deter companies from cutting ties to settlements and thereby ending their involvement in human rights abuses there. States should scrap anti-boycott laws that penalize companies for taking action that ends their involvement in rights abuses.

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