Roskam, Vargas Intro Anti-BDS Bill

Nov 15, 2016
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — Yesterday, U.S. Representatives Peter J. Roskam (R-IL) and Juan Vargas (D-CA) introduced the Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act to push back against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. This bill specifically combats attempts by intergovernmental bodies such as the United Nations to engage in politically-charged economic warfare against Israel. U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

Earlier this year, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) adopted a resolution calling for foreign divestment of Israel. This 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, Reps. Roskam and Vargas, along with Sens. Portman and Cardin, sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman urging them to oppose the UNHRC resolution:

Congress has long combatted boycotts and other discriminatory treatment of Israel. ‘Blacklists’ are among the most nefarious, as they serve only to isolate and stigmatize.  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 U.S. and international law.”

The lawmakers have long argued this 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.

The Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act puts Congress on the record opposing the UNHRC resolution and other attempts to economically harm and delegitimize Israel. This legislation also 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 “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.”