WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and U.S. Representatives Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) announced Thursday the introduction of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, legislation to further combat the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Over the past several years, a growing number of countries have sought to isolate and delegitimize Israel through BDS actions.
Last year, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) targeted Israel with a commercial boycott, calling for the creation of a database—akin to a “blacklist”—of companies that operate in or have business relationships beyond Israel’s 1949 Armistice Lines, including East Jerusalem. The U.S. State Department expressed opposition following the UNHRC resolution’s adoption in March 2016.
This week, building upon the “blacklist” resolution, the UNHRC is considering a resolution to withhold assistance from and halt trade with “territories occupied since 1967”, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Under the resolution, businesses who engage in economic activity in these areas could face civil or criminal legal action.
The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would formally state Congress’s opposition to the UNHRC resolutions to create a “blacklist” and boycott. To prevent the implementation of similar “blacklists” or boycotts in the future, it would amend the Export Administration Act of 1979 to prohibit boycotts or requests for boycotts imposed by international governmental organizations against Israel—similar to prohibitions already in place with respect to boycotts imposed by foreign countries. The legislation would also ensure that the Export Import Bank considers BDS issues when evaluating potential credit applications.
“The United States should bring its foreign policy and its economic institutions, its relationships, and its leverage to bear to combat boycott, divestment, and sanctions actions against Israel,” said Senator Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “We should not stand idle when foreign countries or international governmental organizations use BDS tactics to isolate one of our key allies. We cannot allow these attempts to bypass direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to go unchecked.”
“This bipartisan legislation sends a clear message that politically-motivated boycotts of Israel are unacceptable to the United States,” Senator Portman stated. “I’m pleased to introduce this bill that says the United States stands against illegitimate attempts to isolate our ally Israel or impose policy solutions to issues that can only be resolved through direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”
“The BDS movement is nothing more and nothing less than the latest attempt by Israel’s enemies to destroy the Jewish State. After their repeated military conquests ended in failure, they have now turned to economic means in the hopes of achieving the same outcome,” said Congressman Roskam. “Thankfully, the United States Congress – and the American people – will not stand for it. We will oppose all forms of economic warfare against Israel and Israelis.”
“The United States must make it clear that it will not tolerate any international efforts to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel,” said Congressman Vargas. “Opponents of Israel cannot continue to threaten its security or force a solution between Israelis and the Palestinians. We must continue to support Israel and reaffirm our long-standing commitment to strongly oppose any efforts that delegitimize and undermine our ally.”
Per the text of the legislation, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act does not “alter the established policy of the United States or establish new United States policy concerning final status issues associated with the Arab-Israel conflict, including border delineation that can only be resolved through direct negotiations between the parties.” The Act does not make any U.S. policy statement about Israeli settlements. Consistent with U.S. policy, the Act is only about opposing politically-motivated commercial actions aimed at delegitimizing Israel and pressuring Israel into unilateral concessions outside the bounds of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.