U.S. Representatives Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Juan Vargas (D-CA) have endorsed an updated version of their bill, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which includes language clarifying the rights of individual U.S. citizens to engage in personal boycott activity and affirms that nothing in the Act should be construed to diminish or infringe on any right protected under the First Amendment. After months of a healthy dialogue with the public and consultations with outside groups, lawmakers and other legal experts, Reps. Roskam and Vargas, and Sens. Portman (R-OH) and Cardin (D-MD) have worked to address concerns that have arisen regarding the legislation, which protects U.S. business from being pressured into complying with unsanctioned foreign boycotts by extending provisions of the 40-year-old Export Administration Act to activity by international governmental organizations. Earlier this month, Sens. Portman and Cardin released an amended version of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act; Reps. Roskam and Vargas have endorsed this version and will work to advance the amended version to enactment.
"I am grateful to my Senate colleagues for helping lead the way in clarifying and strengthening the Israel Anti-Boycott to make crystal clear that our efforts to combat economic warfare against Israel is fully consistent with our most important rights. We must swiftly pass this legislation as the UN nears closer to finalizing its efforts to compile a blacklist to target U.S. companies and hit Israel with economic sanctions," Said Representative Roskam.
The text of the updated Israel Anti-Boycott Act (H.R. 1697) can be found here.
Changes in the language include:
Legislative affirmation that nothing in the Act should be construed to diminish or infringe on any right protected under the First Amendment;
A clarification that a person's non-commercial speech or other non-commercial expressive activity cannot be used as evidence to prove a violation under the Export Administration Act (EAA);
A statement of policy in support of the rights of U.S. citizens to engage in personal boycott activity;
For the new actions added to the EAA by the bill, limiting penalties to monetary penalties only;
A statutory definition of "covered person," which makes clear that for individuals to be subject to EAA regulations, they must be acting in an official commercial capacity;
More specific legislative language to clarify that the bill is intended to reach certain data collection efforts by foreign countries and international governmental organizations, not requests for information from U.S. individuals.
"I thank my Senate colleagues for their efforts to ensure that constitutional rights are protected and to strengthen our mission to prevent international efforts to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel," said Congressman Juan Vargas. "The United States Congress must continue to reaffirm our country's commitment to combatting and opposing efforts to undermine our ally by passing this legislation."
The Israel Anti-Boycott Act continues its goal of protecting American companies from being used by foreign countries and international governmental entities to further or support unsanctioned foreign boycotts. The revised bill also reinforces the rights of U.S. companies and individuals to express their points of view; speak in favor of boycott, divestment or sanctions (BDS) activities; and engage in boycott activity of their own accord. Individuals who actively avoid purchasing goods and services because of their own political viewpoint would not be subject to the bill. Similarly, the bill does not regulate civil society organizations that are critical of Israeli policies or prevent them from speaking in favor of BDS.
Per the text of the legislation, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act does not "alter the established policy of the United States or establish new United States policy concerning final status issues associated with the Arab-Israeli conflict, including border delineation that can only be resolved through direct negotiations between the parties." Consistent with U.S. policy, the Act does not make any statement about Israeli settlements.