Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council praised the unanimous passage of a bill by the state Senate last Thursday requiring state pension funds to divest their holdings in foreign companies doing business with Iran's energy industry, the key financing source of Iran's nuclear weapons program.
Sponsored in the Senate by state Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg (D-Evanston) and in the House by Assistant House Majority Leader Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), SB 1621 is heading to Governor Rod Blagojevich for final approval. Should it become law, the bill will complement the federal ban on doing business with Iran and similar efforts progressing in other states.
"It is up to us to use whatever economic leverage we have to stand up to this morally bankrupt regime," Senator Schoenberg commented in a statement. "As long as the Iranian leadership continues to pursue nuclear weapons in the defiance of international law and threaten the destruction of the democratic State of Israel, we are compelled to withhold our public investments from this rogue country."
The bill covers $68 billion in five state pension funds.
"The moral imperative is to speak forcefully and substantively to the repugnant attitudes peddled by Iran's erratic president and mullahs. Divestiture speaks loudly and lucidly ... and makes Iran pay a financial price for its anti-Semantic crusade," wrote Rep. Lang in an e-mail.
JCRC of the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago has actively supported this measure as part of its new Iran Advocacy Action Plan.
“We are gratified by the broad support this bill attracted in both the state House and Senate—members of both parties and legislators of all types of ethnic and religious backgrounds recognized the moral urgency of separating state-administered funds from those profiting from Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program. We look forward to the Governor promptly signing this urgent legislation. Divestment is a crucial part of America’s and the world’s larger effort to secure Iranian compliance with UN Security Council resolutions and its obligations under the International Atomic Energy Commission,” says JCRC Chairman Alan Solow.
“In addition to divesting from foreign companies profiting from Iran’s energy sector, a unique feature of this Illinois law is that all foreign companies—not just energy companies—seeking business with the state must verify they are not doing business with Iran’s energy sector. This means foreign banks and other vendors and clients of Tehran’s energy industry. That additional dimension, and so much else about this law, was made possible by the smarts and energy of both Senator Schoenberg and Representative Lang. They’ve done so much for so many for so long, but I think this will be a milestone achievement in both their distinguished state legislative careers,” says Jay Tcath, JCRC’s Executive Director.