Earlier this month, U.S. Representatives Peter J. Roskam (R-IL), Co-Chair of the GOP Israel Caucus, Juan Vargas (D-CA), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), and Brad Sherman (D-CA) introduced the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, legislation to further combat the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. A companion bill was submitted in the United States Senate by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD). This bill was originally submitted as the Protecting Israel Agasint Economic Discrimination Act in November of 2016.
The bill aims to amend the Export Administration Act of 1979. The Export Administration Act (EAA) prohibits U.S. companies from participating in boycotts against Israel called for by foreign states. Under the proposed legislation, this prohibition would also apply to boycotts called for by international governmental organizations (IGOs). As with the original version of this bill proposed in 2016, the new bill highlights the actions taken by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in regards to Israel. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act points out that “Item 7,” which is a permanenet item on the UNHRC agenda, exists simply to ensure that Israel will be criticized at every gathering of the UNHRC.
The bill details the events of the 31st session of the UNHRC, where the organization called for a “blacklist” of companies that operate or have business relations within certain areas of Israel. The bill also describes the events of he 32nd session of the UNHRC, where a resolution considered “withhold[ing] assistance from and prevent[ing] trade with ‘territories occupied since 1967’, including East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights” stating that “businesses that engage in economic activity in those areas could face could face civil or criminal legal action.” It is examples such as these that would be used to demonstrate an organization is boycotting Israel, and would therefore be used to discourage and potentially prohibit U.S. entities from supporting these organizations.
The means by which the EAA is relevant to these boycotts is specifically, with the addition of the proposed amended language, the declaration of policy wherein the EAA states that the United States government may restrict the export of goods and technology “where necessary to further significantly the foreign policy of the United States or to fulfill its declared international obligations.” The amended version of the EAA would allow the U.S. government to levy these restrictions against IGOs, such as the UNHRC, that work against U.S. foreign policy as it pertains to Israel.
The text of the bill states clearly that the act does not make any U.S. policy statement regarding Israeli Settlements, in an attempt to distance itself from being bogged down in questions of partisanship, nor does it “establish new United States policy” concerning the Arab-Israel conflict.
The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, by sticking to the sole issue of boycotts, has already garnered bipartisan support, and will hopefully mimic the recent bipartisan successes found by the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2016. As on April 2017, almost half of all U.S. states have enacted their own anti-BDS bills, with several having done so in just the past few weeks. With more and more states now drafting anti-BDS legislation, and the introduction of new bills intended to combat BDS in the House and Senate, the BDS movement is rapidly losing what little legitimacy it has managed to cling onto.