New Hampshire becomes 37th US state to pass anti-BDS law

New Hampshire becomes 37th US state to pass anti-BDS law
New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu has signed an executive order banning BDS. He is the grandson of a Palestinian immigrant and part of a US political dynasty. He is widely seen as having presidential ambitions.
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
08 July, 2023
New Hampshire has become the 37th state to enact an anti-BDS law. [Getty]

The US state of New Hampshire passed anti-BDS legislation this week, making it the 37th state to make it an offence to boycott Israel.

The law was issued as an executive order by the state's governor, Chris Sununu, with the announcement made in the presence of Gilad Erdan, Israel's Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations.

Sununu, the grandson of an Arab immigrant and from a New Hampshire political dynasty, is seen as a moderate in the Republican Party and a possible contender for the 2024 Republican presidential primary. He received praise from the Israeli-American Coalition, which assisted in developing the state legislation, saying it was an important step in addressing discrimination against Israel.

"IAC For Action applauds Gov. Sununu for taking a firm stand against national-origin discrimination and safeguarding the deep cultural and commercial ties between Israel and New Hampshire. This executive order shields New Hampshire businesses from the coercive and bullying tactics employed by the BDS hate movement, preserving freedom and liberty," Shawn Evenhaim, chairman of IAC for Action, said in a statement, reported by the Jerusalem Post.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, dating back nearly 20 years, is inspired by South Africa's anti-Apartheid movement. It aims to pressure Israel to meet international legal standards, including withdrawing from the Occupied Territories and granting equal rights to Palestinians. In addition to encouraging individuals to boycott Israel, there are also organised efforts to pressure companies, universities and other entities to divest from Israel.

Anti-BDS legislation began around 10 years ago, with different bills introduced to prevent the boycotting of Israel. The rationale often used for these laws is to combat antisemitism, though critics of these laws say they are an infringement on free speech.


This latest anti-BDS law has been signed in New Hampshire, a libertarian-leaning state whose motto is "Live free or die".

"The whole thing of kowtowing to a foreign government is so anathema to New Hampshire," Adam Shapiro, director of advocacy for Israel-Palestine at Democracy for the Arab World Now, told The New Arab.

"This isn't about antisemitism. This is about following a foreign government telling you what to do. If this were China coming in and saying not to recognise Taiwan, no one would do it," he said.

The reason for the governor's decision likely has more to do with the current political climate, as well as his own ambitions, believes Ronald Stockton, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, told TNA.

"He's a realist. He knows how to deal with the real world. His party would be very supportive of a ban on BDS," he told TNA. "To almost everybody in the country, unless you're linked to the Palestinian issue, this is a peripheral issue. You could lose if you don't sign it."

Possibly adding to Sununu's motivation to sign the anti-BDS law, Stockton believes he still has his sights on the 2024 presidency, though he has publicly said he isn't running. 

"He says he doesn't want to run, but something is going to happen. Trump will probably get indicted again. He probably still has thoughts about being a candidate," he said.

Moreover, as a politician with Arab heritage with origins in Jerusalem via Lebanon, his background could be used against him, making an anti-BDS law a potentially strategic move.

"The simple fact is that he's Palestinian. His grandfather was a Palestinian immigrant. He's got to be really careful. Someone could smash him with that," said Stockton. "He's got to be sensitive to that reality."