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Another Voice: Legislation would block illegal boycott of Israel

By Marlene Katzel

Wednesday’s Another Voice column mistakenly urged voters to oppose proposed legislation in New York State that would forbid our state from doing business with supporters of an illegal boycott of Israel. State Assembly Bill A09036 deserves the support of every Western New Yorker for many reasons.

First of all, the federal Export Administration Act of 1979 and the Ribicoff Amendment to the Tax Reform Act of 1976 forbid U.S. companies from complying with or supporting a foreign country’s boycott of another country, unless the United States also approves of this boycott.

Current advocates of boycotting Israeli products are cooperating with a long-standing illegal Arab League boycott of Israel, and these federal statutes render such cooperation illegal. If New York State entities such as our state’s Pension Fund invest in companies cooperating with an illegal boycott of any U.S. ally, including Israel, those entities could be liable for damages.

This could potentially expose New York State, and its residents, to financial damages if A09036 is not passed, and our state then does business with companies cooperating with the Arab League’s misguided boycott of Israeli products.

The justifications for boycotting any Israeli products are flat-out wrong. Israeli towns and homes in Judea and Samaria are not illegal. Even the Palestinians, in signing the Oslo Accords, recognized the rights of Israelis to reside in at least parts of these areas, pending a final peace agreement to be negotiated between the two parties.

An individual may make his or her own decisions concerning whether or not to purchase Israeli products, and I buy them at every opportunity. This proposed bill does not infringe on the rights of individuals to make such decisions. However, the constitutional protections of free speech cited by these writers don’t extend to illegal cooperation with inimical foreign powers seeking to undermine a U.S. ally.

The writers falsely characterized the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement as favoring Palestinian freedom and human rights, yet the leaders of this movement have publicly stated that their real goal is Israel’s destruction. They falsely claimed that forcing Israel to surrender all disputed territory would somehow bring about peace in the Middle East. Can anyone really believe that somehow ISIS will lay down its arms, or the tragedy in Syria will cease, or that terrorism emanating from the Middle East will stop if Israel withdraws?

New York State should not miss this opportunity to align policy with federal statutes, reject hatred-inspired cooperation with an illegal boycott of Israel and support the ongoing close alliance between Israel and the United States.

Marlene Katzel is a member of the board of PeaceBuffs, a local citizen action group supporting peace in Israel.