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Background: Divest-from-Israel Campaigns Violates the Federal Antiboycott Law
Summary: Campus and other divest-from-Israel campaigns may violate U.S. law aimed at protecting nations friendly to the U.S. from unsanctioned foreign boycotts. U.S. businesses need to be protected against secondary boycotts aimed at them as well. Divestment Watch is leading the fight against divestment and boycott campaigns against Israel.
The Arab boycott of Jewish interests started as early as 1921, and it is still in effect today under the auspices of the Arab League and its Central Boycott Office. This boycott includes boycotting not only products produced in Israel, but also companies that do business in or with Israel. The boycott even goes as far as blacklisting ships that have docked in Israeli ports, regardless of the cargo's point of origin or ultimate destination.

In 1977, Congress passed a law creating the Office of Antiboycott Compliance within the Department of Commerce, in response to the Arab boycott of Israel. The law prohibits U.S. persons from taking certain actions in support of an unsanctioned foreign boycott against a country that is friendly to the United States. Because Israel is an ally of the United States, and our government does not sanction the Arab boycott of Israel, the law prohibits actions that further or support the Arab League boycott of Israel.

Over the past two years, a divest-from-Israel campaign has been gaining momentum on college campuses across the United States. In July 2003, the ZOA expressed its concern about the campaign and about an upcoming national student conference supporting the Arab boycott of Israel. The ZOA urged the Office of Antiboycott Compliance to investigate these activities as a possible violation of the antiboycott law.

In November 2003, Boycott Watch sent a letter to the Office of Antiboycott Compliance, furnishing evidence that the divest-from-Israel campaign is a direct function of the Palestinian Authority, which is a member of the Arab League and a signatory to the Arab boycott of Israel. Last week, Boycott Watch furnished additional information to the Office of Antiboycott Compliance, about the Palestinian Authority's effort to establish an economic blockade of Israel in Malaysia. This would effectively expand the scope of the boycott and the Palestinian Authority's economic warfare against Israel.

Boycott Watch is now advising all colleges and universities that divest-from-Israel campaigns on their campuses may be in violation of the U.S. antiboycott law.

"Boycott Watch is a leading consumer watchdog organization and is committed to combating illegal boycotts of Israel in the United States," said Fred Taub, president of Boycott Watch. Taub attended a divestment conference at Ohio State University in 2003, and says that there was no question that organizers were advocating an illegal boycott of Israel, including divestment and direct boycott of Israeli goods. "The organizers even went as far as advocating boycotts against U.S. companies that do business with Israel, and some boycotters are creating a 'safe list' of companies to purchase from that don't do business with Israel. Asking companies to comply with that list or to furnish information in support of the list is illegal. The Arab boycott of Israel is being promoted in the U.S. and we will continue to lead the fight against it."

Susan Tuchman, Director of the ZOA's Center for Law and Justice, encouraged others to join in this fight and contact the Office of Antiboycott Compliance to voice their concerns about the nationwide student divestment campaigns against Israel and urge that they be shut down. "The campaigns are obviously intended to hurt Israel's economy, but they also threaten our own country's trade and commerce, and may damage American companies that do business in or with Israel," according to Tuchman.

The Boycott Watch letters to the Office of Antiboycott Compliance describing potential violations of the law are available on line at www.BoycottWatch.org. For further information, consultation or to schedule a lecture, contact Boycott Watch at 216-765-2273.
Boycott Watch letter of October 2003
Boycott Watch Letter
Supplement 1: Appendix D
Supplement 1: Appendix F
Boycot Watch letter of July 2004
Boycott Watch Letter
Supplement 1: Appendix A
Supplement 1: Appendix B
Supplement 1: Appendix C
Supplement 1: Appendix D
Supplement 1: Appendix E
© 2005 Divestment Watch