A bill, which is receiving bipartisan support in the House, will combat the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement and attempts to pressure the Jewish State through sanctions.
Representatives Peter J. Roskam (R-IL) and Juan Vargas (D-CA) on Monday introduced the Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act to combat boycotts on Israel.
This bill specifically targets attempts by intergovernmental bodies such as the United Nations (UN) to engage in politically-charged economic warfare against Israel.
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced companion legislation in the Senate in September.
JTA reports that the bill amends language in previous bills passed in the ’70s to combat the Arab League boycott of Israel to encompass the modern BDS movement and to include efforts that would boycott goods from Judea and Samaria.
Earlier this year, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) adopted a resolution calling for foreign divestment of Israel. The resolution urged member countries to pressure companies to divest from, or terminate contracts with, Israel and even called for the creation of a “blacklist” of companies doing business with Israeli entities.
In May, Roskam and Vargas, along with Portman and Cardin, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and US Trade Representative Michael Froman urging them to oppose the UNHRC resolution.
“Congress has long combated boycotts and other discriminatory treatment of Israel. ‘Blacklists’ are among the most nefarious, as they serve only to isolate and stigmatize,” the latter read. “This new ‘blacklist’ is reminiscent of the Arab League boycott against Israel, and companies dealing with Israel, which for decades was used to strangle Israel’s economy and coerce Israel into unilateral concessions. Any foreign company, including American ones, could be targeted by this effort even if they are conducting completely legal activities under US and international law.”
Protecting Israeli and American Interests
The lawmakers argued that the UNHRC action greatly threatens the economic stability of America’s strongest ally in the Middle East, as well as the countless American companies operating in Israel, and undermines efforts to achieve a lasting peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.
This legislation also requires the Export-Import Bank to consider BDS activity when evaluating potential applicants.
“US taxpayer-backed financing should not be available to those who choose to conduct economic warfare against Israel, ” a statement by Roksam said.
The Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act “is intended to address and counter only acts of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Nothing in this Act shall be construed to alter the established policy of the United States 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 BDS movement promotes financial, academic and cultural boycotts against Israel, ostensibly as a nonviolent struggle against the so-called “Israeli occupation.”
Critics say its activities are a modern form of anti-Semitism, and its true objective is to destroy the State of Israel.