Roskam bill combating anti-Israel BDS advances through committee
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act – bipartisan legislation authored by Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Juan Vargas (D-CA) to combat the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel in International Governmental Organizations (IGO’s) – advanced through the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
This legislation mandates the President update the Federal Code of Regulations to prohibit the compliance of boycotts or requests for boycotts imposed by international governmental organizations against Israel—similar to prohibitions already in place with respect to boycotts imposed by foreign countries. With recent reports indicating the United Nations Human Rights Council will continue its push to publish a blacklist of companies operating in Israel or Israeli controlled territories, this legislation will protect these American companies from being used by foreign countries and international governmental entities to further or support unsanctioned foreign boycotts.
“I thank Chairman Royce and Ranking Member Engel for working tirelessly to advance this legislation to combat the insidious BDS movement.” Said Rep. Peter Roskam. “As international bodies seek to wage economic warfare against Israel, it is imperative we stand with our ally, Israel, and combat these one-sided, politically-motivated efforts to weaken and isolate the Jewish State. This legislation would update our anti-Boycott laws to ensure we combat modern boycott efforts targeting Israel.”
- In 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) targeted Israel with a commercial boycott, calling for the creation of a database—akin to a “blacklist”—of companies that operate in or have business relationships beyond Israel’s 1949 Armistice Lines, including East Jerusalem. The U.S. State Department expressed opposition following the UNHRC resolution’s adoption in March 2016.
- In February 2018, the UNHRC published a report detailing its work to establish a list of companies operating or investing in certain Israeli-controlled territories, which preliminarily targeted 22 U.S. companies. The report—which calls for “reputational, legal and financial” consequences—could be used to initiate boycotts against companies that do business with Israel.
- The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would formally state Congress’s opposition to the UNHRC resolutions to create a “blacklist” and boycott. To prevent the implementation of similar “blacklists” or boycotts in the future, it would require the President to issue regulations to amend the Code of Federal Regulations to prohibit boycotts or requests for boycotts imposed by international governmental organizations against Israel—similar to prohibitions already in place with respect to boycotts imposed by foreign countries.
- The Act does not make any U.S. policy statement about Israeli settlements. Consistent with U.S. policy, the Act is only about opposing politically-motivated commercial actions aimed at delegitimizing Israel and pressuring Israel into unilateral concessions outside the bounds of direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
- The legislation reinforces the rights of U.S. companies and individuals to express their points of view; speak in favor of boycott, divestment or sanctions (BDS) activities; and engage in boycott activity of their own accord. Individuals who actively avoid purchasing goods and services because of their own political viewpoint would not be subject to the bill. Similarly, the bill does not regulate civil society organizations that are critical of Israeli policies or prevent them from speaking in favor of BDS.