BDS protest
BDS protest Hadas Parush/Flash 90

Lawmakers in the state of Montana on Saturday advanced a bill that pledges solidarity with Israel by refusing to do business with firms boycotting the Jewish state, reports The Associated Press.

Republican House Speaker Austin Knudsen of Culbertson said his bill allows Montana to stand in solidarity with Israel.

The bill, he added, "sends the message that we will not send our taxpayer dollars to companies which chose to participate in the boycotting and sanctioning of one of our nation's strongest allies.”

The bill would direct the Montana Board of Investments to sever ties with companies supporting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

It would also bar public agencies — including counties, cities and towns — from doing businesses with companies that don't agree to certify in writing that they are not engaged in a boycott of Israel, according to AP.

The House endorsed the measure 59-41 on preliminary vote.

By passing the measure, Montana joins a number of states that have already passed anti-BDS laws over the past year or so.

New York, California, New Jersey, Arizona, Indiana, Florida, Tennessee, Michigan and Virginia are among the states that have approved similar laws.

In December, Nevada introduced a law against the anti-Israel movement, after Lieutenant Governor Mark Hutchinson and pro-Israel activists introduced Senate Bill 26, which is similar to the anti-BDS legislation passed in other states.

Also in December, the Ohio House of Representatives approved a bill targeting BDS.

The anti-BDS measure is of particular significance in Montana, where anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head in the town of Whitefish in recent months.

A neo-Nazi website by the name Daily Stormer announced in January that it was planning an armed march meant to harass the Jewish community of Whitefish. The march was later postponed when organizers failed to obtain a special event permit from the town.

The Jewish center in the town was also the target of bomb threats.

Knudsen said on Saturday his interest in Israel predates the recent focus on hate groups in Whitefish.

"We're all aware of what happened in Whitefish late last year. Some of that controversy is still going on. We have white supremacists who want to march in Whitefish, Montana, in our own home state," he was quoted as having told members of the House chamber.

Knudsen added he saw the bill as an opportunity, he said, to stand up for Israel and the Jewish people.