Yisrael Gantz and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee
Yisrael Gantz and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee spokesperson

Binyamin Council chairman Yisrael Gantz wrote a letter to Tennessee Governor Bill Lee thanking him for the anti-BDS legislature which is being proposed by the Tennessee legislature, but called on him to add Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria to the bill.

Gantz wrote: "I wish to thank you again for your gracious hospitality when I visited your state this past May. I was moved by your genuine warmth for Israel, the Bible, and the Jewish People and by your deep commitment to Judea, Samaria, and my region, Benjamin. I look forward to hosting you and your family -especially those girls of yours - here soon, at ancient Shiloh and in our beautiful biblical mountains north of Jerusalem. Our mutual friend, Tommy Waller, who introduced us, brings hundreds of volunteers to the Benyamin Region each year. Many from the great state of Tennessee. Our love for Tommy and the people of Tennessee grows stronger and deeper with every season."

"I am also writing to applaud you for the anti-BDS bill HB-2050/SB-1993 that your legislature is currently working on. Such laws are a key deterrent against BDS discrimination campaigns that threaten to frighten away investment and trade. For example, businesses in our region have had to sue the European Union to prevent them from implementing a discriminatory labeling campaign over the past few years that would have explicitly labeled Jewish products going into the EU, to facilitate anti-Jewish boycotts of products from Jerusalem and the rest of the Judea, Samaria, and Benjamin regions. Such campaigns aim to discourage Jews from living in the Biblical heartland that is the cradle of Jewish civilization. And when Ireland tried to criminalize trade with Jews in Judea and Samaria a few years ago, it was a fear of US state anti-BDS laws that deterred them from doing so.

"We are proud to count Tennessee as a friend and ally that stands against such discrimination, and stands proudly with Israel, as evidenced in Tennessee’s 2015 resolution denouncing anti-Israel BDS hate, and recognizing Jews’ rights to live in their ancestral lands.

"There is an aspect of the current anti-BDS bill HB-2050/SB-1993 that concerns us however. Our territory, which is the first target of the BDS movement, is not explicitly mentioned or covered in the current Tennessee bill language. It references businesses registered in Israel but does not cover consumers or non-business entities outside the old ‘Green Line’. This ambiguity seems to leave trade with our region at risk. We would like to see trade grow between the Israeli Territories and the great state of Tennessee. We believe that including the Territories explicitly, as has been done in 20 other states, will best help that to happen. Excluding the Territories, in contrast, might invite ‘Territories only’ boycotts like Airbnb and Ben & Jerry’s that could disrupt and damage our mutual trade. Only by explicitly referencing the Territories do state counter-boycott laws have the deterrent effect needed to fight these blatantly antisemitic initiatives.

"Since 2016, twenty (20) US States (Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Nevada, North Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, West Virginia) have passed anti-BDS laws that explicitly include the Israeli Territories. The language in those bills, “Israel and Israeli-controlled territories,” was directly drawn from federal trade statute enacted by President Obama in 2015 (Trade Promotion Authority – the TPA) to deter Territories only boycotts, and is in line with US foreign policy recognizing Israel’s rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the Golan Heights.

"We know that Tennessee is deeply connected to Israel, and we write to you with confidence that in bringing this oversight is to your attention, it will be rectified. We thank you again for your friendship and look forward to hearing back from you," Gantz concluded.