Testimony presented at hearing on Anti-BDS Legislation, S.1689/H.1685, July 18, 2017
I will not repeat all the other good arguments made against this bill. Instead, I want to address the claim made by proponents of this legislation – especially State Treasure Deb Goldberg earlier — that Massachusetts-Israel business ties are vital to our economy, and that failure to penalize what are called anti-Israel activities puts this sector at risk. Of course, even if this weretrue, it would still be little enough cause to abandon our traditions of free speech and civic engagement. A patriot will never sell his freedom at any price. But in fact it is not true.
Israel advocates often base their argument on a highly dubious report – “The Massachusetts-Israel Economic Impact Study” — commissioned and paid for by Israeli and pro-Israel organizations. The report employs questionable methodology to identify “Israeli” businesses in Massachusetts and skewed data to exaggerate the role of Israel in the economy of our Commonwealth. For example, by the criteria used in this report, Wang Laboratories was a “Chinese” business and Tesla Motors is “South African”.
A more objective assessment of Israel’s economic role in our economy is to be found by examining trade data. In 2016, Israel did not even make the top 25 countries as a destination for Massachusetts exports, well behind Brazil, Spain, Sweden, and Thailand – countries our legislature does not take much interest in. Trade with Israel amounts to a vanishingly small portion of our state’s $500 billion GSP. Actually, we run a small annual tradedeficit with Israel — not counting our taxpayer share of the more than $3 billion in annual US military aid to that country (about $100 million yearly from Massachusetts).
The truth is that Israelis come to Massachusetts for educational and business opportunities, just like other foreign nationals. Israeli companies are here to seek US capital and access to US markets — not because we give their country love, but because there are career prospects and profits to be found here. The idea that Israeli companies would leave if we don’t pass anti-BDS legislation is frankly absurd. Israel needs Massachusetts much more than Massachusetts needs Israel.
Clearly, all the hype about Massachusetts business and technology ties with Israel is more about politics than economics. We achieve nothing material by exchanging our principles of free speech for the illusion of economic gain from ties with Israel.
This bill should not leave this committee.