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Mississippi extends Israel Support Act despite pushback from critics

Gov. Tate Reeves, joined by a group of state lawmakers and others, ceremoniously signs the Israel Support Act on Monday afternoon. (Photo courtesy of State Treasurer David McRae)

A controversial law preventing Mississippi’s treasury or public employees’ retirement system from investing in companies that boycott Israel or those of Jewish descent has been recertified.

Though Republican Gov. Tate Reeves etched his signature on Senate Bill 2226, which extends the Israel Support Act of 2019 for another three years, back in April with its implementation date set for July 1, a group of lawmakers gathered on Monday for a ceremonial signing.

Critics of the legislation, such as Emad Al-Turk, the co-founder of the International Museum of Muslim Cultures in Jackson, argue that the law infringes on Mississippians’ constitutionally protected rights to free speech and peaceful resistance to a foreign government.

“If somebody wants to support Israel, they can support Israel. This is not about Israeli support. This is about curtailing Mississippians’ and Americans’ rights to freedom of speech, freedom of protest, and boycotting in a peaceful way,” Al-Turk told SuperTalk Mississippi News in March.

Proponents of the measure, including State Treasurer David McRae, believe that the law further cements Mississippi’s unequivocal support for Israel amid the nation’s ongoing conflict in Gaza. McRae also supports the notion of pushing back against any boycotts against Israeli companies as he finds that to be an act of antisemitism.

When the legislation was originally passed and signed by then-Gov. Phil Bryant, a section of the Department of Finance Authority’s website was created to keep a list of companies determined to be boycotting the Jewish State.

According to the state law, Mississippi companies are required to be given a 90-day written notice before being placed on the list, offering business owners the opportunity to prove they are not discriminating against the Middle Eastern nation.

“Are we really going to be boycotting people for expressing their opinions and expressing what groups they can and cannot support? That’s really why we’re against it,” Al-Turk said.

Al-Turk believes the legislation was influenced by the Jewish lobby, particularly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, as he accused lawmakers of secretly bringing this year’s bill extending the existing law to the floor for a vote. The activist said he was not made aware that the legislation was going to be introduced until March 7, the day the Senate unanimously passed the bill before a motion to reconsider was entered.

Efforts by Al-Turk and other activists to voice their concerns at the capitol in opposition to the Israel Support Act initially proved futile after multiple requests to hold a rally were denied. The group was ultimately given the green light to organize one day after the Senate unanimously passed the measure again, prompting Al-Turk to accuse lawmakers proposing the measure of having an agenda.

Israel protest
Protestors gathered in Mississippi’s capital city in March to voice opposition to lawmakers renewing the Israel Support Act. (Photo courtesy of MS4Palestine)

“It took them seven days to finally acquiesce to our requests. They’ve been resisting even listening to us,” he continued. “If we had known earlier that these bills were considered, we would have mobilized differently in the community. A lot of people are against it, but the legislators don’t want to listen to their constituents.”

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