WASHINGTON – Israeli Consul-General to the Midwest Yinam Cohen met with Iowa’s Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds last Thursday and attended two bill signings that will enhance Iowa’s anti-BDS legislation, which “holds any foreign, publicly traded company that chooses to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel accountable.”
According to the Israeli Consulate, the law has now been expanded to prevent state pension funds from investing in any company, business entity and subsidiary that participates in BDS activity.
“We have been following Iowa’s two pieces of legislation in the past few months,” Cohen said. “The first one adopts the IHRA [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] working definition of antisemitism, and the second one is BDS-related. While the state already adopted an anti-BDS bill in 2017, it should have been amended to include a definition of firms and subsidiaries, so it could be applied to Ben and Jerry’s and Unilever.”
He said he was thankful for the governor for promoting these bills, and that it was a significant step, “because now Unilever could be held accountable.”
“I told her that she signed two bills with the same message: that there is no place for antisemitism and anti-Zionism in Iowa, and that shows a true friendship to Israel,” Cohen said.
“Israel has always claimed that any solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be reached through direct negotiations between the two sides. Any third party’s attempts to predetermine the parameters of the final status agreement are counterproductive to solving the conflict.” he said.
Cohen later met with Iowa’s Attorney General Thomas Miller to discuss concrete steps that can be taken.
“I am moving from one state to another to make sure that the anti-BDS legislation is being implemented, because I know that divesting from these companies has an impact,” he said. “The same goes [for] IHRA implementation, which sends a strong message. Sixty percent of religious hate crimes were against Jewish targets, although Jews are just 2% of the population. We should be committed to speak out against it. I am reaching out to additional states about it, and I hope we will have some news in the next year.”
Cohen also delivered a speech to Iowa’s General Assembly.
“The support for Israel is truly heartwarming,” he said. “I wanted to speak about these bills but also to let them know about Israel’s humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and that Israel is standing shoulder to shoulder with the US. I also spoke about the Abraham Accords and their importance to the Middle East.”
Cohen then met with Iowa’s Speaker of the House Pat Grassley, Rep. Carter Nordman, Senate President Jake Chapman, State Sen. Zach Nunn and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver.
“Aside from the political issues, it was important for me to discuss ways to improve business cooperation between Israel and the Midwest,” he said. “There are currently three deputy governors visiting Israel from Midwest states: Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska, and it was important for me to meet with Iowa’s secretary of agriculture to explore how to bring more Israeli companies to the Midwest. The Israeli innovation is truly remarkable, but the challenge is that most companies mostly operate in New York or San Francisco, so there is less attention to the Midwest despite the huge potential.”
“We are looking to establish relationships that would be mutually beneficial,” Cohen said. “Inflation is not playing a role here. It is true that the US has become more expensive, but it is still very much attractive for Israeli businesses.”