You read that right: Blacklist. This time, though, it's not about rooting out the seditious pinko commies. It's about rooting out the anti-Israel thought offenders, and punishing them. See how different?
Our Legislature is following in the footsteps of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who just ordered state agencies to divest from any companies or organizations that participate in a Palestinian-backed boycott movement against Israel.
Supporters liken this to the movement to divest from firms doing business in South Africa during the apartheid regime. But there is a critical difference. Back then, state governments punished any business that dealt with the oppressive regime, no matter what the reason.
That approach would not work when it comes to the boycott of Israel, since most American firms don't do business there in the first place. So this legislation sets up an agency that can act as a kind of thought police to find out why a given company is not invested there. If it's for commercial reasons, that's fine. But if the motive is political, then the company would face these sanctions.
The problem is pretty easy to see: the legislation actually requires our state to hire outside investigators to probe the political motives of these companies. If their failure to invest in Israel is a form of protest, explicit or side-eyed, then they would go on the blacklist.
How would the state know this? Perhaps by mining Facebook posts, speeches or writings, for clues about what a CEO thinks -- or using lists that other states have compiled. The legislation says our state should keep a list of companies that are in compliance and not in compliance, too.
As New Jersey's ACLU argues, the message couldn't be clearer: Say something perceived as anti-Israel, and you could be subject to government sanctions.
Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), one of the bill's sponsors, says it sends a strong message against anti-Semitism.
"Making sure that we are not investing in any company that seeks to hurt the interests of Israel or its people through boycotts, divestments, and sanctions will send a clear message that we stand against this kind of veiled discrimination," she said in a statement.
But the bill has already passed the Senate and is now headed for a floor vote in the Assembly with virtually no public debate. Intentional or not, that's unacceptable. Such a controversial issue deserves extensive public discussion, and raises serious legal questions.
So, no, this legislation is not a constitutional way for lawmakers to express their opinion about those who advocate boycott, divestment and sanctions (known as "BDS") against Israel, to protest its policies toward Palestinians.
If it sounds more like the McCarthy hearings of the 1950's than a message against "veiled discrimination," that's because it is."