A bill to protect US businesses from pressure by the BDS movement and anti-Israel UN policies passed another hurdle on the way to becoming law.

By: The Tower

The influential House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed the bipartisan Israel Anti-Boycott Act sending it to the full House of Representatives for a vote, The Jerusalem Post reported Thursday.

The bill would protect Israel and Israeli businesses from boycotts organized by international organizations.

Northwestern Law School Prof. Eugene Kontorovich explained last year that the purpose of the bill is to counter efforts by international organizations, such as the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which is assembling a blacklist of companies doing business with firms that have any ties to Judea and Samaria.

Several United Nations agencies have initiated secondary boycotts of Israel — that is, boycotting non-Israeli companies because of their connection to the Jewish state. In support of such secondary boycotts, the UN Human Rights Council is preparing a blacklist of Israeli-linked companies (using such a broad definition of “supporting settlements” that the blacklist could sweep in any Israeli-linked firm).

The Post termed the bill the “most significant federal effort to legislate against the BDS movement.” The BDS — Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — campaign seeks to isolate Israel by subjecting it to economic boycotts. The federal legislation is follows the example of states that have similar laws barring those states from doing business with any entity that boycotts Israel.

Democrats on the committee insisted on language protecting free speech. However, Kontorovich pointed out that the Israel Anti-Boycott Act expanded on previous legislation and never targeted speech, but specific actions.

Clarifying and Strengthening the Israel Anti-Boycott Act

The old law already forbids “support” for foreign state boycotts of Israel, and the many regulations enacted pursuant to the law already define “support” to be limited to “certain specified actions” that go well beyond merely “speech” support. The new bill does not change or alter the meaning of “support.” It simply clarifies the list of foreign boycotts covered by the law.

The current legislation would amend the Export Administration Act of 1979 and extend protection to American companies from boycotts, not only by Arab nations, the target of the 1979 legislation, but from international bodies too.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act was introduced by Rep. Peter Roskam (R – Ill.) and Rep. Juan Vargas (D – CA). An identical bill has been introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D – Md.) in the Senate.

Roskam said, “I am grateful to my Senate colleagues for helping lead the way in clarifying and strengthening the Israel Anti-Boycott to make crystal clear that our efforts to combat economic warfare against Israel [are] fully consistent with our most important rights. We must swiftly pass this legislation as the UN nears closer to finalizing its efforts to compile a blacklist to target US companies and hit Israel with economic sanctions.”

“I thank my Senate colleagues for their efforts to ensure that constitutional rights are protected and to strengthen our mission to prevent international efforts to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel,” Vargas added.