Our Opinion: N.C. voting with its wallet against Israel divestment

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North Carolina taxpayers will no longer be forced to support corporate boycotts of the United States’ strongest Mideast ally and the only true democracy in the region.

Gov. Roy Cooper has signed his name to House Bill 161, which will eliminate state pension plan investments from companies and groups participating in the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which seeks to exert economic pressure on Israel to withdraw from occupied Palestinian territory it seized during the 1967 Six-Day War.

The Democratic governor is taking flak from his left flank, as self-styled social justice organizations, including some liberal Jewish groups, are apoplectic over the legislation that will take effect on Oct. 1.

Gabriel Baldasare of Jewish Voice for Peace-Triangle NC called the bill an act of “economic warfare.”

In a joint statement, 20 groups including Jewish Voice for Peace, the Muslim American Public Affairs Council and the N.C. Council of Churches called the bill “a repressive tactic of silencing free speech and prohibiting protest.”

The hand-wringing is naked hypocrisy. North Carolina isn’t squelching anyone’s free speech; it’s employing the exact same tactic as businesses in the BDS movement — voting with its wallet.

Private groups have every right to choose how they will and won’t invest their money. If a majority of a company, charity or church’s membership believes the state of Israel is committing human rights abuses against the Palestinian people, it naturally follows that the organization would decline to enrich Israeli interests with the cash in its investment portfolio.

Local, state and national governments enjoy the same right. With taxpayer money being invested, it’s wise to prevent North Carolina’s pension plan from being used to make divisive political statements that are supported by neither the voters nor their elected representatives.

Rep. Stephen Ross, R-Alamance, introduced the bipartisan bill. His co-sponsors include Rep. Jeff Collins, R-Nash; Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond; Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln; and Rep. Michael Wray, D-Halifax.

“Today is a significant day for North Carolina,” Ross told his hometown newspaper, the Times-News of Burlington. “It’s important for our state to stand with Israel against boycotts that threaten Israel’s sovereignty. This bill protects North Carolina’s economy from efforts to restrict trade and affirms our state’s economic commitments to Israel.”

At the end of the day, this bill is less about Israel than it is about economic freedom. Corporations and governments vote with their wallets every day, as do individuals. On the personal level, it’s known as ethical consumerism. Our decisions on how to use our purchasing power should be guided by information on the causes favored by those with whom we transact business.

Supporters of the BDS movement are disingenuous in their criticism of House Bill 161. Their argument is self-defeating.

Boycotting those who boycott Israel is merely applying the same economic pressure they exert, but in reverse. Turnabout, after all, is fair play.