Rep. Ron DeSantis. (AP/Andrew Harnik) (AP/Andrew Harnik)
Ron DeSantis

Congress is promoting a bill that aims to protect US businesses from pressure by the BDS movement. The move was warmly welcomed by a coalition of pro-Israel organizations.

By: United with Israel Staff

The US House of Representatives last week introduced the Export Administration Anti-Discrimination Act (EAADA), which aims to protect US businesses from pressure by the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement, a move that was warmly welcomed by a coalition of pro-Israel organizations.

Congressman Ron DeSantis (R-FL) introduced the bill on Wednesday with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) as a co-sponsor.

The bill will update the anti-discrimination protections codified in the Export Administration Act of 1979 (EAA), which prevents foreign entities from pressuring US corporations to comply with boycotts of US allies, including the State of Israel. It will also update and strengthen enforcement of the 1979 law by creating a private right of action for those harmed by unlawful boycotts.

Just as the 1979 legislation protected US companies from pressure to engage in the Arab League Boycott, the 2018 EAADA will protect companies from discrimination and targeting at the hands of the BDS campaign, a more recent effort to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state and its supporters.

BDS “has weaponized economic activity to purposefully inflict financial harm on Israel,” DeSantis said. “Americans and our allies alike deserve the freedom to conduct business without the perpetual threat of discriminatory boycotts. US policy should reflect strong opposition to those who seek to isolate our allies and cause economic damage to countries such as Israel.”

The 2018 EAADA will “strengthen current law and modernize important anti-boycott protections,” he added.

“There has been a disturbing trend here in the United States of groups pressuring US businesses and universities to not do business with or in Israel,” Goodlatte noted. “Israel is one of our closest allies, and we must ensure that our laws protect American companies conducting business with all of our allies.”

Legislation Not in Opposition to Free Speech

The World Jewish Congress (WJC), The Lawfare Project, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Israeli-American Coalition for Action (IAC for Action) and a range of other pro-Israel organizations applauded this pro-Israel legislative move.

WJC President Ronald Lauder thanked DeSantis and Goodlatte “for putting forward this important legislation that will combat the BDS movement, which is rearing its ugly head all over the world.”

He underscored that the legislation “does not in any way infringe one’s right to free speech, but it does ensure that those who engage in commercial discrimination on the basis of someone’s national origin will face consequences for that repugnant behavior.”

He urged Congress members from both sides of the aisle to sign onto the bill and assure its passage and enactment into law.

Brooke Goldstein, executive director of The Lawfare Project, said that “hate groups are gathering under the banner of the BDS campaign to unlawfully target companies and individuals with ties to Israel and the Jewish community all across the United States. Congress needs to act. This bill is a commonsense way of improving and better enforcing current laws to protect Americans from discrimination.”

IAC for Action Chairman Shawn Evenhaim said that “Israel and America have a strong relationship based on our shared values of democracy and freedom. As Israeli-Americans, we understand how important it is to protect American businesses from foreign groups that demonize Israel, America’s strongest ally in the Middle East, just as we work to pass laws that protect everyday Americans from having their tax dollars support the discriminatory, hateful campaign that demonizes the Jewish state, often with anti-Semitic propaganda.”

Federal and State-Level anti-BDS Legislation

This federal initiative joins some 25 states that have enacted anti-BDS laws.

In May, Louisiana became the 25th US state to enact official measures condemning BDS or prohibiting government business with entities that boycott Israel.

The governors of all 50 US states have signed a declaration condemning the BDS movement as antithetical to American values.

Montana, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, South Carolina, PennsylvaniaNew JerseyRhode Island, MichiganTexasNevada, Kansas and Wisconsin have all passed bills fighting BDS.

The BDS movement promotes financial, academic and cultural boycotts of Israel, ostensibly as a nonviolent protest against the so-called “Israeli occupation.” Critics say its activities are a modern form of anti-Semitism and that its true objective is to destroy the State of Israel.