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Israeli divestment ban proposed in Pennsylvania

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(The Center Square) – Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to protect the state’s Israeli financial holdings despite mounting public pressure to cut ties amid the ongoing war with Hamas.

Sens. Steve Santarsiero, D-Doylestown, and Kristin Phillips-Hill, R-Jacobus, said they’ll soon introduce legislation to “uphold Pennsylvania’s steadfast support for Israel” by banning from state Treasury or pension funds from divesting from the nation and companies that do business with it.

Santarsiero emphasized Israel’s role as a commercial trading partner, historical ally, and “the only true democracy in a volatile region of the world.”

“To that end, we must act to prevent our commonwealth, including our colleges and universities, from taking the wholly unwarranted action of divesting from Israel,” he said Friday in a joint statement with Phillips-Hill.

“Like America, Israel will not be bullied by detractors,” Phillips-Hill added, calling on all policymakers to act. “A strong and prosperous Israel needs a strong partner in the United States.”

Elected officials, including Gov. Josh Shapiro and Democratic U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, have been emphatic in their support for the embattled nation as its bombing campaign in Gaza – triggered by a Hamas-led assault on Oct. 7 that left 1,200 Israelis dead and more than 200 taken hostage – stretches into a seventh month.

Israel’s bombings in the region have killed nearly 35,000 Palestinians, injured more than 78,000 and displaced 1.7 million, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

The violence spawned protests across the nation, including one at the University of Pennsylvania, where demonstrators demanded the state boycott Israeli financial holdings.

University officials eventually disbanded the encampment, with Shapiro’s backing, and pointed to state law that prevents publicly funded institutions from divesting.

Treasurer Stacy Garrity expressed support for the bill on Friday, saying “there’s no question” that other state funds should be prohibited from divesting. In the weeks after the Hamas attack, she upped Israeli bonds by nearly half.

“I also agree with the senators that no university or college which divests from Israel should receive state funding,” she told The Center Square. “I urge the General Assembly to get this bill done quickly.”

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