As Hanukkah enters its final nights, it is an opportune time to reflect on Arizona’s solidarity with Israel and the Jewish people. It’s not just a casual notion. In fact, Arizona leaders like Gov. Doug Ducey have made it official state policy.
Last May saw two weeks of violence in Israel, the worst in seven years. The violence accompanied an uptick in antisemitic incidents in the United States, with the ADL reporting a doubling of such incidents year over year. Arizona wasn’t spared. Two Tucson synagogues, including the one that former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and state Rep. Alma Hernandez call home, were vandalized.
At the time of the vandalism, Gov. Ducey said, “Anti-Semitism has NO place in Arizona and this behavior cannot be tolerated. Arizona stands with those of the Jewish faith.”
The governor and Legislature have made sure that’s the case.
A bill passed by the Legislature in 2019 and signed by the governor would prevent state government from engaging in contracts with firms that participate in the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement, otherwise known as BDS.
Consistent with that law, Arizona state Treasurer Kimberly Yee earlier this year sold off the state’s bond holdings in Unilever PLC, the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, after the ice cream company announced it wouldn’t sell its products in certain Israeli territories. Arizona also holds $15 million in Israel Bonds.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich last month joined a 12-state coalition of attorneys general urging Unilever to reverse its decision, pointing out in a letter that Unilever does business in places like China, Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela and even Iran.
The ties between Arizona and Israel are strong, with visits by the governor and legislators underscoring how the Start Up Nation and the Start Up State are kindred spirits, who value entrepreneurship and innovation.
I accompanied the governor in 2015 when he led the state’s first ever trade delegation to Israel, where he spoke at WATEC, the globe’s most prominent water technology conference, and discussed how Arizona and Israel were both demonstrating how economic expansion in an arid, desert region and water stewardship were complementary.
In December 2019, the Ducey family traveled to the Holy Land, which included a stop at the Western Wall, as well as meetings with the new Arizona-Israel trade office, whose opening was marked that November by a large delegation of state legislators who included funding for the office in the budget they passed that May, which was enthusiastically signed by Gov. Ducey. In addition to water stewardship, the trade office can facilitate Arizona and Israeli firms’ collaboration on cybersecurity, defense & aerospace and other economic sectors where we have shared interests.
Trade missions to our international partners are important ways to build the Arizona brand abroad and tout our state as an attractive place for foreign investment and job-creating collaboration. Arizona has leveraged its favorable tax and regulatory policy to land major global projects.
But our relationship with Israel goes far beyond business – it’s rooted in firm support for the Jewish state and total opposition to antisemitism.