WASHINGTON (Mar. 13)
A State Department official told a Congressional group today that while the Arab boycott has not been harming Israel to a great extent, “we recognize however that the rapidly increasing economic strength of certain Arab countries has enhanced the Arab boycott as a potentially effective weapon against Israel.” Sidney Sober, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, made those remarks in an appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s subcommittee on international trade and commerce. He reiterated that the most effective way to deal with the boycott is “our present diplomatic approach.”
He stressed that the State Department opposes boycotts and will “continue to oppose any efforts to discriminate against American firms or individuals on the basis of religion or ethnic background.” He said “It is our conviction that in the attainment of peace (in the Middle East) lies the fundamental basis for resolution of the boycott issue,” He concluded, however, that “the growing attractiveness of commerce with certain Arab countries will place greater pressure on some foreign firms not to deal with Israel because of the boycott.”
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT’S VIEW
Antonin Scalia, Assistant Attorney General, said in his testimony that “the crucial question” in the hiring of Jews for services in countries that prohibit Jews from entering is whether a company refuses to hire a person because he is Jewish or because he does not have a visa to go to the area of employment. This view was offered by Scalia in response to a question by Rep. Jonathan Bingham (D. NY) about Jewish employment by a firm having an Arab contract.
The Justice Department official said in his prepared statement that the “ultimate purpose of the boycott is not to injure any United States firm” and that the “boycott is ultimately a political rather than a commercial phenomenon,”
He added: “There is a question whether a boycott of this sort, which, in effect, requires an American company to choose whether it wishes to have certain types of business relations with Israel or to have dealings with the Arab countries, has a sufficient impact upon U.S. foreign commerce to come within the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. The act only proscribes activity which has a ‘material adverse affect’ upon our foreign commerce.”
Sober told the Congressmen that the initial boycott, set up by the Arab League Council in 1946 to prevent the entry of certain products into Arab countries from what is now the State of Israel, does not appear to have done any particular harm to Israel whose economic growth rate, he pointed out, has been about 10 percent annually.
He said that the secondary boycott, introduced in 1951 to inhibit third parties from assisting in Israel’s development is the “boycott that affects American economic relations with a number of Middle Eastern countries” and its scope, he added, “has been broadened through the years.”