What is the Israel Anti-Boycott Act and What Can Activists Do to Stop it?

Rahul Saksena of Palestine Legal and Rabbi Joseph Berman of Jewish Voice for Peace talk live about the revised Israel Anti-Boycott Act and how it is really a “Gag Law.”


What does the Israel Anti-Boycott Act do?

As the ACLU explains, “The Israel Anti-Boycott Act principally seeks to amend the Export Administration Act of 1979. That law prohibits “U.S. persons” — a term that refers to both individuals and companies — from taking certain actions to comply with or support a boycott imposed by a foreign country against another country that is friendly to the United States.”

Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law and recognized as such by the U.S. government. Human Rights Watch recently issued a report calling for companies to cease doing business with Israeli settlements in order to comply with international law. Amnesty International last month said that “The international community must ban the import of all goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements.”

The legislation also goes against public opinion. According to a recent poll released by the Brookings Institution, 60% of Democrats and 46% of all Americans support sanctions or stronger action against Israel because of settlement construction. This is mirrored in the Jewish community where a 2014 poll found that 49% of American Jews under the age of 30 support boycott of the settlements. International bodies, human rights organizations, and increasingly public opinion recognize that the United States must put pressure on Israel in order to create a just peace with equality, human rights, and dignity for both Palestinians and Israelis. H.R. 1697/S. 720 does the opposite by seeking to amend U.S. policy in favor of permanent occupation.


What does the Israel Anti-Boycott Act NOT Do?

It does not make it illegal to support the Palestinian-led call for boycott, divestment and sanctions. While this legislation is alarming, it is important not to exaggerate the potential impacts of the legislation and add to the chilling effect against advocacy for Palestinian human rights.


What About the Freedom to Boycott?

Boycotts have a long history as a tactic to advance social justice and equal rights, and are protected under constitutional law. In 1982, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co. that political boycotts are protected by the First Amendment.

For more information about your right to boycott, check out this factsheet and explainer video from Palestine Legal.


Who else opposes the Gag Law?

Here are just a few major organizations opposing the Israel Anti-Boycott Act:


Take Action against the Gag Law

See if your Member of Congress is a co-sponsor of the legislation. The co-sponsors in the Senate are listed here and the co-sponsors in the House are listed here.

Call your senators and representatives! Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 to get connected to your members of Congress. Tell them:

Hi, my name is _______, and I’m a constituent. I’m calling to express concern about your support of / urge you not to support the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720 for Senate/ H.R. 1697 for Representatives). Can you assure me that the (Senator/Representative) won’t support/will withdraw support from this bill?

This bill discriminates against political beliefs by criminalizing efforts to use boycotts to hold Israel accountable to international law, and goes against U.S. policy by legitimizing illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Can you assure me that the (Senator/Representative) won’t support/will withdraw support from this bill?