WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Thursday, Democratic and Republicans leaders in both the House and Senate introduced legislation that would penalize foreign countries and international governmental organizations that seek to engage in the boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) movement against Israel.
“We should not stand idle when foreign countries or international governmental organizations use BDS tactics to isolate one of our key allies,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement coinciding with the introduction of his Israel Anti-Boycott Act. “We cannot allow these attempts to bypass direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to go unchecked.”
Cardin introduced the legislation along with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Rep. Peter Roksam (R-IL), and Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA).
“This bipartisan legislation sends a clear message that politically-motivated boycotts of Israel are unacceptable to the United States,” Portman said.
The press release also points out that “Over the past several years, a growing number of countries have sought to isolate and delegitimize Israel through BDS actions.”
The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would formally state Congress’s opposition to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s resolutions reportedly seeking to create a blacklist of companies that do business with Israeli settlements. The bill amends the Export Administration Act of 1979 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 legislation would also ensure that the Export Import Bank considers BDS issues when evaluating potential credit applications.”
If it passes, the anti-BDS law would fine violators in accordance with the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act.
According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), “Cardin’s office, responding Wednesday to a request from JTA to clarify whether the criminal penalties would apply to those observing BDS boycotts, said that only certain fines in existing law would be applied to BDS-observant businesses, not the criminal penalties.”
Last December, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) called for defunding the United Nations until the UN Security Council reversed an anti-Israel resolution. The resolution was approved after the Obama administration delivered what was seen as a parting shot at Israel by abstaining from voting against a resolution calling for a halt to Israeli construction in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem.
UN Resolution 2334 calls Israeli construction in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem “illegal.”
Soon after, Cruz and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the “Safeguard Israel Act.” The legislation states that the U.S. government will be prohibited from giving any money to the UN, or any of its affiliates, until the U.S. government confirms the UN resolution has been repealed and can certify that he has done so.
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