Israel Anti-Boycott Bill Does Not Violate Free Speech

(Washington Post) Eugene Kontorovich - The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is a minor updating of a venerable statute that has been at the center of the U.S. consensus on Israel policy - the laws designed to counteract Arab states' boycott of Israel by barring Americans from joining such boycotts. Current law, first adopted in 1977, prohibits U.S. entities from participating in or cooperating with international boycotts organized by foreign countries. The existing laws cover not just participation in a boycott, but also facilitating the boycott by furnishing information, when done in furtherance of the boycott. For example, telling a Saudi company, "We don't happen to do business with the Zionist entity" would be prohibited. If anti-boycott measures are unconstitutional, as the ACLU argues, it would mean that most foreign sanctions laws are unconstitutional. If refusing to do business with a country is protected speech, doing business would also be protected speech. Thus, anyone barred from doing business with Iran or Sudan would be free to do so if they said it was a message of support for the revolution or opposition to U.S. policy. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act only makes clear that the existing anti-boycott law applies not just to the Arab League boycott, but also to new anti-Israel boycotts, such as those being organized by the UN Human Rights Council. The writer is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law.

2017-07-28 00:00:00

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