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Abzug Committee Holds Hearing on Arab Boycott Against Jews

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The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith advised Congress yesterday that both Congressional oversight of present U.S. laws against discrimination and new federal legislation are necessary to counter the Arab boycott’s abuse of the rights of American citizens. “Both are needed to make it unlawful for American businessmen to comply with discriminatory requests” from Arab countries and “to permit those hurt by discrimination to sue for damages,” David Brody, the ADL’s Washington director, testified before the House Subcommittee on Government Information and Individual Rights headed by Rep. Bella Abzug (D.NY).

“If a little country like The Netherlands can do it,” he added, “a great country like ours certainly can do it.” Brody referred specifically to the Dutch Ministry of Justice making it a criminal offense to comply with discrimination against Dutch Jews and the cancellation by the Dutch Foreign Minister of a visit to Saudi Arabia because a Dutch Jewish journalist was denied entry.

Brody’s views came extemporaneously in response to a request for suggestions on how to meet the boycott measures by Rep. Robert W. Kasten Jr. (R. Wis.), who himself only minutes earlier had attacked the discrimination being practiced against Jews through the boycott and called for national measures to remedy the situation. Kasten, a freshman Congressman, had testified as a witness before the subcommittee and then was invited by Rep. Abzug to join the panel in questioning others testifying.

The Abzug panel opened hearings on governmental policies and practices relating to the assignment of personnel both by the agencies or their contractors to overseas areas. State Department and Treasury officials testified they were committed to a federal policy of non-discrimination. Assistant Treasury Secretary Warren F. Brecht said that Treasury procurement offices must include in their formal contract documents the appropriate equal opportunity clauses to assure contractor compliance with executive orders.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT VIOLATIONS CITED

Kasten testified that he had “a number of indications that the Department of Defense had abdicated its responsibility not to violate either the letter or the spirit of our anti-discrimination laws,” and pointed to “the recent admission” by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that it “had agreed to demands from foreign nations in the foreign assignments of personnel.”

Rep. Sam Stelger (R.Ariz.), the ranking Republican on the subcommittee and a B’nai B’rith member himself, agreed with the opposition to the Arab blacklist of business concerns identified with Israeli trade or Jewish management and also expressed opposition to discrimination within the United States. But he said that seeking to “impose your will and customs on others” is “not the proper role for us.” He said that “a fair equation is trying to impose democracy in Vietnam.”

Pointing out that his views might be interpreted as anti-Semitic, Stelger pointed out that he himself is a Jew. He said that it would be “counter-productive” to attempt “to force our will on others,” with regard to the laws of that country. “It would be ludicrous for Vinnell to employ Jewish combat instructors to instruct the Saudis to oppose the Israelis,” he said. The Vinnell Corporation of California has a defense contract to train Saudi troops.

In opening his extemporaneous testimony, Brody told Stelger that the Congressman was not taking “an anti-Semitic stance but an ill-advised and misguided stance.” Body noted that ARAMCO Services, advertising itself as an “equal opportunity employer,” sought medical personnel with the qualification that an applicant had to be successful in attaining a visa to Saudi Arabia. ARAMCO previously owned and now operates Saudi Arabia’s oil fields and markets the oil. Saudi Arabia, with few exceptions, bars Jews from entering.

START ENFORCING THE LAW

Rep. Abzug charged that federal agencies which assign personnel overseas were in clear violation of the 1965 Civil Rights Act and of Executive Order 11478, both of which require government agencies to adopt a strong affirmative action program to assure equal opportunity. “Acquiescence to religious or racial discrimination by foreign countries is a ‘negative action’ program, not an affirmative action program,” she said. The Arab boycott “is a most repugnant example of this kind of policy which is alien to American principles,” Rep. Abzug stated.

She also charged that the State Department’s so-called quiet diplomacy on this issue has been a complete failure. “In the last 20 years,” she noted, “there has not been a single indication of a change in policy by any of those countries which the State Department insists will be receptive to diplomatic overtures. It is time we started enforcing the law instead of exchanging diplomatic niceties.”

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