Anti-boycott Hearing Sparks Clash

Local Jewish groups collided yesterday with Port of Philadelphia interests over the best strategy to be used in combatting the Arab economic boycott of Israel. David Gress, a reporter for the Jewish Exponent, related that the dispute arose at public hearings on the Pennsylvania Free Commercial Association Act being conducted here by the Committee of Business and Commerce of the State House of Representatives. Similar hearings are slated Friday in Harrisburg and next Tuesday in Erie.

The proposed legislation would outlaw coercive or discriminatory business practices and would provide sanctions and provisions for damages. Similar legislation has already been passed in six other states.

Testifying on behalf of the bill were representatives from the Pennsy IVanta Regional Advisory Board of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Philadelphia; the Philadelphia chapter of the American Jewish Congress; Brith Shalom; and the Metropolitan Christian Council, a coalition of Protestant and Orthodox denominations in southeast Pennsylvania.

DIFFERING OPINIONS AIRED

The Delaware River Port Authority, the International Longshoremen’s Association, Philadelphia Port Corp, and the Port Committee of the Delaware Valley Council opposed the measure. Both the Jewish groups and the Port interests agreed that federal legislation was the best method of combatting the Arab boycott.

However, the Jewish groups maintained that state legislation, in addition to being an effective anti-boycott tool in its own right, would also force Congress to move on the issue. The Port interests contended that such legislation would cost the Port of Philadelphia business to ports in states without such laws.

In response to the testimony from the Longshoremen’s union, State Rep. Charles Laughlin (D.) pointed out that the longshoremen had united to prevent the shipment of grain to the Soviet Union. If they could do that, he said, they could similarly get together and prevent the transfer of business from port to port as anti-boycott legislation is enacted by various states.

At the conclusion of the hearings, Committee Chairman Reid L. Bennett noted that he would raise the issue of all 50 states introducing anti-boycott measures at the meeting of the National Conference of State Legislators Aug. 30-31 in Kansas City. Similar legislation has been introduced in the State Senate but no hearings have yet been held and none are scheduled.

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