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Ajcongress Warns It Will Bring Suit Against Commerce Department Unless Names of U.S. Firms Complying

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The American Jewish Congress warned today that it might bring suit against the U.S. Department of Commerce under the Freedom of Information Act unless the Department makes public the names of American firms complying with the Arab boycott of Israel. The Department of Commerce considers this information “confidential” but its disclosure could facilitate public pressure on complying companies, AJCongress Executive Director Naomi Levine said at a press conference here today.

At the same time, the AJCongress reminded the Ford Administration today that there are eight federal statutes of long standing that the President could invoke to foil the Arab boycott pressures “now being directed at American companies and American citizens.” The eight statutes were listed in a 29-page memorandum “to the President of the United States” circulated to reporters at the press conference.

Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, AJCongress president, said these statutes “already make illegal many aspects of the Arab boycott operating in the United States today” and that “strict enforcement of these laws would make a major contribution to restoring the principle of free trade and protecting the rights of American citizens.”

NEW ANTI-BOYCOTT LEGISLATION EXPECTED

The AJCongress also said that it expects new legislation aimed against the Arab boycott to be introduced by a bi-partisan group of Senators before the end of this month. The proposed measures would make it illegal for an American company to refuse to deal with any country with which the U.S. has diplomatic relations because of the foreign policy of a third country; and would prohibit discrimination by any company on grounds of race, religion and sex in any of its commercial operations.

The latter was described as an expansion of the Civil Rights Law aimed at companies that might refuse to hire or promote Jews as a condition of doing business with an Arab country.

The laws already on the books that can be invoked against the Arab boycott are: the Export Administration Act; the Federal Trade Commission Act; the Shipping Act; the Bank Secrecy Act; the Securities and Exchange Act; the Federal Deposit Insurance Act; the Foreign Investment Study Act; and the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

Rabbi Hertzberg said, “We believe that President Ford and his Administration are deeply concerned with problems of discrimination and boycott. In the President’s public declarations and in the most recent economic agreement signed with Israel, our government has reiterated America’s opposition to any restrictive trade practices that result from boycott and religious discrimination.”

Rabbi Hertzberg noted that the AJCongress’ study suggests “additional steps that the President could take to protect American companies from Arab boycott pressure and to defend the principle of free trade and non-discrimination which are fundamental to the American system.”

FIVE FIRMS CHARGED

In Washington, meanwhile, the Department of Commerce charged five U.S. exporters today with failure to report that they had been asked to participates in the Arab boycott, a violation of the Export Administration Act of 1969. The Department refused, however, to disclose the Identities of the companies until their cases are settled. A Department spokesman noted that it was not illegal for a U.S. firm to participate in the boycott.

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