FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 20, 2015 — Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) expresses its support for the new Congressional bill that will seek to battle efforts to boycott Israel by linking rejection of BDS to a trade agreement being negotiated with the European Union, the largest free trade deal in history.
The bill, ‘‘The United States-Israel Trade and Commercial Enhancement Act,’’ enjoys bipartisan sponsorship, which backers hope will help it advance quickly through Congress.
Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Juan Vargas (D-CA), who co-sponsored the bipartisan legislation, believe it will “leverage ongoing trade negotiations to discourage prospective U.S. trade partners from engaging in economic discrimination against Israel.”
The bill’s sponsors drew parallels to laws passed by Congress in the 1970s regarding the Arab League boycott of Israel, and noted that more recent trade agreements with Bahrain and Oman included anti-boycott clauses.
Further, the bill will also establish the monitoring of BDS-related activities by requiring foreign companies traded on U.S. stock exchanges to disclose whether they have participated in, or have faced pressure to participate in, acts of economic discrimination against Israel. The legislation does not, however, establish any penalty for doing so.
The bill also contains statements reaffirming the economic relationship between the U.S. and Israel, including the “strategic importance of trade and commercial relations to the pursuit of sustainable peace and regional stability.”
The sentiments critical of boycotts by the bill’s sponsors are important, not just because they put Congress “on the record” against BDS as antithetical to the notion of free trade, but also because boycotts and divestment efforts undermine the possibilities for a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Richard Cravatts, SPME’s president, said that “as academics interested in trying to rid campuses of the corrosive effects of the virulent BDS movement, we, of course, support any efforts by policy makers and others outside of academia to condemn boycotts and divestment efforts and to take steps to neutralize some of their deleterious effects. If our policymakers take a reasoned and moral stand on the issue of boycotting and divesting from companies doing business with Israel, perhaps it will make it easier for those in higher education to follow that lead and start to neutralize the BDS campaign on campus.”