April 04, 2010

Is it legal to boycott Israel or not?

 by Diane V. McLoughlin
Main website:  mcloughlinpost.com
 I stumbled upon a U.S. government document from 2002 which refers to the 'antiboycott' law.  It seemed to suggest that U.S. law prohibited boycott of Israel.  I looked into it and this is not quite true.  It is illegal to participate in a boycott of Israel if it is a foreign boycott - ie initiated by Arab countries, for example.  

But it turns out that it is not illegal for a U.S. citizen or company to choose to boycott Israel if the impetus to boycott originates domestically.  For more, see below:

'Commerce Under Secretary for Industry and Security Kenneth I. Juster today again reminded U.S. companies of the need to comply with laws and regulations prohibiting U.S. persons from taking actions in support of foreign government boycotts against Israel. Juster's comments were in response to recent statements made by certain members of the Arab League's Boycott Office to reactivate the ban on trade with Israel.

"The U.S. Government is strongly opposed to restrictive trade practices or boycotts targeted at Israel," Juster said. "The Commerce Department is closely monitoring efforts that appear to be made to reinvigorate the Arab boycott of Israel and will use all of its resources to vigorously enforce U.S. antiboycott regulations."

'The Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) administers U.S. antiboycott regulations, which prohibit U.S. persons from taking actions in support of unsanctioned foreign government boycotts, including the Arab League boycott of Israel. BIS has a long record of aggressive enforcement of the antiboycott regulations, with over $26 million in civil penalties imposed and denials of export privileges where violations have been found.

'Questions concerning the Commerce Department's antiboycott regulations can be directed to its Office of Antiboycott Compliance by telephone at (202) 482-2381 or via e-mail.'
I wrote to the Commerce Department and asked whether the antiboycott law applied to American citizens or American businesses, if the desire to boycott originated within the American citizen or the American business - not due to pressure, suggestion or duress from a foreign country or foreign citizen.

Here is my e-mail query, dated April 5, 2010:

With apologies in advance, I have
a supplemental query with regard to the antiboycott law.

So far, what I believe I understand from the law (hoping
you will correct me if I am not reading it right) is this:

A U.S. citizen or U.S. company may not boycott or choose not to do
business with Israel if this is something that they are being
compelled to do by a boycotting Arab country in order to do business with that
foreign country.

My question:  What if a U.S. citizen or company or other American entity,
of their own accord, wishes to boycott freely themselves from doing business
with Israel based upon their own freedom of thought, belief or conscience?

If they are not being asked to do it in order to do business with
anyone, but the U.S. person or business within themselves wants to not
do business in any way, shape or form with Israel, i.e. until Israel
dismantles its apartheid regime oppressing the Palestinian people
- does the antiboycott law still apply? 

Those considering boycott
of Israel to peacefully encourage change is not the same scenario
that was first in mind when the antiboycott law was originally formulated.

Reading the bill, the law appears to only cover antiboycott activities
originating outside of American borders.

If the antiboycott law still applies even though it is originating within
the U.S. person or company rather than being encouraged from beyond
American borders it would be most appreciated if you were able to
cite the section of law specifically applicable to the above scenario, with my sincere

I am a person with a deep respect for the rule of law.  So I appreciate
your help in furthering my understanding of the antiboycott law.

Again, thank you very much for your prompt reply, and I look forward to
hearing from you.
This is the entire reply I received to my e-mail query, from GMOHLER@bis.doc.gov :

'The Regulations relate to unsanctioned foreign boycotts. The Regulations are not applicable to boycotts of domestic origin. 
A bit cryptic, but it seems to answer the question nevertheless. 


1 comment:

  1. Its high time to do it, now that our government stands alone in the world supporting Israeli aparteid. U.S. Citizens can lawfully and energetically disagree.