The two Democratic candidates for Georgia governor, Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans, renewed their disagreement over Georgia’s 2016 law against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement during an election forum held Thursday night, Feb. 22, by the Jewish Democratic Women’s Salon.
The legislation, supported by the Israeli Consulate, requires Georgia contractors to certify that they are not boycotting Israel for political reasons. It passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and by a narrower majority in the House.
Lois Frank asked the candidates about the issue during the forum at Heritage Sandy Springs. Below and in the video are the answers in full, although Evans brought up the split again a few minutes later.
I was proud to vote for the anti-BDS bill that came through the Georgia General Assembly. There’s not a lot at the state level that we can do for international relations, but showing Israel that she is our friend and our ally through that vote is something that I am very proud of, and I’m glad that our state did that.
It’s troubling to me that my primary opponent voted a different way and tried to encourage our caucus members to follow her. We need to make sure that we are always letting Israel know that she has a friend in us. I want to make sure that we keep the strong import-export relationship that we have with Israel. I want Georgia to continue to invest in Israeli bonds. I want us to fight to keep the Israeli Consulate here in Atlanta. And I want to lead a trade mission to Israel. That is very important. The business development opportunities are in abundance.
Now in 2011 I was fortunate to be invited — in 2012, I mean — I was fortunate to be invited to go to Israel with a group of government leaders, and unfortunately I found that the timing of the trip was not so great because I was going to be seven months’ pregnant when that trip was taking place. So I didn’t get to go. And so I look forward to going to Israel and leading a trade mission as your next governor.
In 2003 I was a member of Project Understanding, the Marvin Goldstein Fellowship. It was a Black-Jewish Coalition that I joined because I wanted to make certain that I understood the complexity of the relationship between the black community and the Jewish community. I extended my understanding and my learning by becoming someone who has stood up for Israel again and again.
I unequivocally believe in the right of Israel to exist. I do so so strongly that I’ve been to Israel. I went on the Project Interchange trip and had an amazing time. But more than that, I’ve met with the past two ambassadors who served the consulate general here in Atlanta. I met with Ambassador Varnai Shorer, and I met with her predecessor. I do that every year as minority leader because I think it’s critical, whether you are governor or not, to understand the complexity of our relationships.
I did not vote for BDS, but unlike what has been put out in the public, I did not encourage anyone to vote for or against it. But I think it’s important to understand where I stood. I’m from Mississippi, one of the hotbeds of civil rights, segregation and discrimination. And it was economic boycotts that helped break the back of Jim Crow in the South. I grew up understanding that those economic boycotts are a form of political expression that are essential and vital for the protection of civil rights. And as a state legislator, I absolutely have watched my colleagues on the Republican side misuse legislation to discriminate against people.
I will tell you that I believe unequivocally in the right of Israel to exist, and I condemn the global BDS movement. I believe it is wrong. I believe it is anti-Semitic. I believe it misappropriates and misuses language and tries to align itself with valued and valiant efforts, and I think it should be condemned. But I do not believe that we should as a legislature give the power to people who use that to discriminate against others. And so in this case I disagreed. But I never once told my members to vote a certain way. In fact, I refused to allow there to be a caucus vote on how to vote, and I told every member, “Vote your conscience, and vote your values.” My values are that we will always stand with Israel as I have and will and never will waver.