Skip To Content
Fast Forward

Iowa governor signs antisemitism, Israel boycott bills

(JTA) – Iowa’s governor signed bills into law this week codifying a definition of antisemitism for the state and restricting state business with companies that boycott Israel.

One of the two bills signed by Republican Kim Reynolds on Wednesday calls for the state to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism in discrimination and anti-bias training.

The other builds on an existing section of the state code that prohibited it from investing in “companies that boycott Israel,” by expanding the definition of a “company” to include subsidiaries and parent companies. 

“Today we express Iowa’s enduring support for the State of Israel and our categorical rejection of anti-Semitism,” Reynolds said in a statement. “Together, these bills send an important message: Iowa continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with the State of Israel, one of America’s most important and reliable allies while fighting all forms of religious and ethnic discrimination.”

The bills fall into two separate but related trends of legislation. The IHRA’s 2016 working definition of antisemitism, while controversial for including certain criticisms of Israel, has also been adopted by more than 800 entities worldwide, including 200 just last year, according to a recent study by the Combat Antisemitism Movement and Tel Aviv University. Its use in anti-bias training, as is proposed in the new Iowa law, has proven popular even as some Republicans are seeking to outlaw anti-bias training altogether.

And state provisions on working with companies that “boycott Israel,” passed in a flurry during the initial heyday of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement, have reentered the spotlight since the ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s announced last year that it would no longer do business in “Occupied Palestinian Territory.” 

Since that announcement, numerous states (including Colorado just this week) have invoked their anti-boycott laws to divest public funds from Unilever, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s.

Though Iowa has already had such a provision on the books since 2016, the specific description of which companies are now included under the law would likely make it easier for the state to inflict subsequent punishment on Unilever over the Ben & Jerry’s controversy. The bill was first introduced last month.

Reynolds was accompanied at the signing ceremony by Yinam Cohen, Israel’s Consulate General to the Midwest.

About 5,400 Jews live in Iowa, making up 0.2% of the state’s population, according to a 2020 study by Jewish demographers Ira M. Sheskin and Arnold Dashefsky. 

The post Iowa governor signs antisemitism, Israel boycott bills appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.