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Lawmakers pass bills prohibiting state from investing in companies boycotting Israel despite challenges to constitutionality

Amid conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine, Mississippi lawmakers have moved to extend an existing law that bars the state from investing in companies that boycott the Jewish State.

Following the passage of companion bills in each chamber, protestors levied upon the grounds of the state capitol on Wednesday and asked lawmakers to reconsider the legislation. Emad Al-Turk, the co-founder of the International Museum of Muslim Cultures in Jackson, helped organize the rally as the Israel Support of Act of 2019 is set to expire at the end of this year.

“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 explained.

When the legislation was originally passed and signed by then-Gov. Phil Bryant in 2019, it created a law prohibiting Mississippi’s public employees’ retirement system and the state treasury from investing in companies that boycott the Jewish State or those of Jewish descent – something Al-Turk and others deem a Constitutional violation.

“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.

The legislation also created a section of the Department of Finance Authority’s website, where companies determined to be boycotting Israel are listed. Those companies are supposed to be given a 90-day written notice before being placed on the list, providing a chance to prove they are not boycotting the Middle Eastern nation.

Al-Turk believes the move was influenced by the Jewish lobby, particularly the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, as he accused lawmakers of secretly bringing this year’s legislation – to extend the existing law for another three years – 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.

Al-Turk said once word was out that

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