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Federal Legislation Strengthens Anti-BDS Movement


Rachel Leach, Brandeis Center

November 21,2016
 

Throughout 2016 we have seen several state legislatures successfully introduce and pass anti- Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) legislation. Reaching beyond state law, several United States congressmen, in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, have introduced federal anti-BDS legislation. Specifically, on November 14, 2016 U.S. Representatives Peter J. Roskam and Juan Vargas introduced the Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act.

The Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act seeks to amend the Export Administration Act of 1979 to include the prohibition of boycotts, “fostered by international governmental organizations against Israel[.]” The Export Administration Act 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). The proposed legislation explains that Congress has found that IGOs, including the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), have “long targeted Israel with systematic, politically motivated, assaults on its legitimacy designed to stigmatize and isolate Israel internationally.”

On March 24, 2016, through an adopted resolution, the UNHRC demanded a commercial boycott and divestment of companies that conduct business with Israeli entities. The resolution also calls for the creation of a database (or blacklist) of such businesses.

Representatives Roskam and Vargus recognized that Congress has been combating anti-Israel boycotts with legislation since 1979. The Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act would formally acknowledge that, “Congress opposes the United Nations Human Right Council resolution of March 24, 2016, which urges countries to pressure their own companies to divest from, or break contracts with, Israel.”

In addition to opposing the UNHRC’s 2016 resolution, the Act requires, “the Export-Import Bank to consider BDS activity when evaluating potential applicants. U.S. taxpayer-backed financing should not be available to those who choose to conduct economic warfare against Israel.”

The Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act strengthens the anti-BDS movement by prohibiting IGO’s from creating and implementing boycotts against Israel.

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Walter Reich
Walter Reich is the Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior, and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, at The George Washington University; a Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center; and a former Director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
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