At Alan Clemmons’s Myrtle Beach law firm in South Carolina, the Israeli flag proudly flies alongside the U.S. and state flag. While the South Carolina state representative put the flag up several months ago, it is not the only public show of support that Clemmons has shown towards Israel during the past 12 years as a member of the South Caroline House of Representatives.
In 2011, Clemmons sponsored the South Carolina Stands With Israel Resolution, which unanimously passed the South Carolina General Assembly. “It was something that both Democrats and Republicans in our state legislature could agree upon,” Clemmons told Tazpit News Agency in a recent interview, during a visit to Israel this week.
“I expected a fiery debate on this resolution, but every single one of the 124 members of the legislature voted for it,” added Clemmons, who is leading a delegation of 24 South Carolina state legislators, spouses and friends on a visit to Israel. The group is on a mission to learn more about the country’s technology, healthcare, security, and economy as well as to explore new areas of cooperation.
“I sponsored this resolution as a way of responding to President Obama’s declaration that Israel return to the 1948 ceasefire lines,” he explained. “I wanted to proclaim that Israel is not occupying any land and has Biblical and strategic rights to Judea and Samaria and a unified Jerusalem.”
At the time that he sponsored the resolution, Clemmons, a Mormon and father of two, had not yet visited Israel. “The resolution didn’t get a lot of press coverage in the U.S. but it certainly did in Israel. Suddenly, I saw that my name was popping up on the Google news feed in Israeli news reports,” he recalls.
A visit to Israel inevitably followed soon after, and Clemmons found that his first trip to the Holy Land only served to strengthen his resolve to support the Jewish state. Following the 2011 Israel Resolution, which had been replicated and passed in many other states since, Clemmons has sponsored the South Carolina – Iran Divestment Act and has worked against academic boycotts of Israel in colleges.
This year, the Myrtle Beach native also sponsored a unique South Carolina Stands With Israel Specialty Automobile License Tag Act. The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles now offers a vanity plate option that reads, ‘South Carolina Stands With Israel’ with the southern state’s flag and Israeli flag intertwined.
“I’ll be the first to get that specialty plate as soon as it’s available to put on my car,” Clemmons told Tazpit.
Clemmons explains his support of Israel comes from both a strategic place where Israel is seen as a vital partner for the U.S. in a region “that doesn’t have a whole lot of love for America,” and a morally religious one as well.
“South Carolina is referred to as the buckle of the Bible Belt and is one of the southern states at the forefront of supporting Israel. We are taught our Bible stories here from a young age and we know who King David and Abraham are,” he said. “Judea and Samaria is rich with Jewish history.”
South Carolina, also known as the Palmetto State in reference to the official state tree, has a rich Jewish heritage, beginning in 1669 with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religious practice for all, expressly including those of Jewish faith. Much of Carolina’s first Jewish settlers traced their roots back to Spain or Portugal where they were expelled during the Spanish Inquisition. Today, the Jewish population numbers at 13,570 people.
During this past week, Clemmons has led a group of lawmakers from South Carolina, including both Democrats and Republicans on a 10-day trip to Israel. South Carolina Legislature Minority Leader, Todd Rutherford (D) told Tazpit that the visit was a significant one for him. “My support of Israel is not just talk,” Rutherford said. “I’m here to see how we can further ramp up our relationship with our closest ally,” said Rutherford, who first visited Israel in 2010 with AIPAC.