The Israel Anti-Boycott Act, Why Now?

Summary: The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would counter a quickly emerging threat. Some international governmental organizations are now considering blacklisting American companies that conduct legal business in areas controlled by Israel—including East Jerusalem, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the West Bank. Companies appearing on this blacklist would be stigmatized and may be subject to punishment. Congress took a stand against the Arab League Boycott against Israel 40 years ago. Today, it needs to extend current law to counter new forms of boycott.

Which international governmental organizations are attacking Israel economically?

In March 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) ordered preparation of a database—the blacklist—of companies operating in territories which came under Israeli control during the 1967 Six Day War. The initial version of this database will be ready by year’s end. Subsequently, U.N. agencies and the European Union (EU) will likely take steps to pressure listed companies to end their legal business or face sanctions. 

What impact would this blacklist have?  

Both Israelis and Palestinians would suffer if American companies refrain from doing business in these areas. Such a boycott could also have the unintended consequence of more broadly discouraging trade with Israel and the Palestinians by companies seeking to avoid legal danger or controversy. Moreover, this wholesale adoption of the Palestinian negotiating position that any Israeli presence outside of the pre-1967 borders is illegitimate would undercut any attempt to bring Palestinians back to the negotiating table for direct talks—the best way to resolve their differences with Israel.

What does the Israel Anti-Boycott Act do?

  • Enables Congress to again take a stand against unauthorized boycotts of American allies like Israel.

  • Reinforces and broadens longstanding U.S. policy opposing boycotts against American allies. The bill is anchored in existing law that has been consistently upheld by U.S. courts for 40 years. The Act would prohibit American companies from complying with boycott requests by international governmental organizations like the U.N.

  • Exclusively focuses on commercial conduct while protecting the free speech rights of all Americans—including those who advocate boycotts against Israel.

  • Discourages international governmental organizations from blacklisting American companies conducting legal activities in any friendly country.

  • Encourages Palestinians to return to direct talks by thwarting coercive efforts against Israel outside of the negotiating process. The bill takes no position on the terms of a final agreement.