WASHINGTON (Sep. 23)
A Senate-House conference committee today began reconciling differences in the Export Administration Act including the varied provisions to combat the Arab economic boycott of Israel and Jews adopted by both chambers. With Congress adjourning Oct. 1, the conference was racing against time to reach an agreement by early next week with final passage before adjournment the objective.
The House late yesterday approved stiff provisions aimed at the boycott in adopting the Act as a whole by a vote of 318-63. Leaders of both parties supported the measure authored by two New York Democrats–Jonathan Bingham and Benjamin Rosenthal. A motion to recommit the bill and thus kill it was posted by the most ardent foe of the boycott measure, Rep. Robert Michael (R.III.). It was easily defeated by a vote of 287-91.
PRINCIPAL DIFFERENCE OUTLINED
A principal difference between the Senate and House versions rests on the secondary boycott element. The Senate measure, sponsored by Sens. Adlai Stevenson (D.III) and J. Harrison Williams (D.NJ) does not specifically prohibit American companies from refusing to do business with Israel. It relies mainly on public disclosure of such refusals to discourage companies from complying with such an Arab demand.
Both bills require companies to report Arab demands on them to comply with blackmail activities that include violation of the U.S. Civil Rights Law. These forbid American concerns from discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex or national origin. Both also have increased criminal penalties for violations of the Act to fines of up to $50,000 and jail sentences of up to five years. Civil violation penalties also are boosted from $1000 to $10,000.
The bill also contains provisions for tightening of controls of export of nuclear materials and equipment. However, the agreement by the Ford Administration to sell nuclear reactors to Egypt and Israel was said not to be affected by these provisions “at all.” A Congressional expert told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency the provisions in the Act basically “complement” the safeguards in the agreements.
ARGUMENTS: PRO AND CON
In fighting the boycott measures in the long debate in the House, Michael predicted the anti-boycott laws would bring Arab retaliation that would cause heavy losses to American companies and unemployment among Americans. The Caterpillar Tractor Co., which he described as “the largest returner of dollars” to the United States in export trade, is in his district.
He pointed out that the “testimony of the Department of Commerce was that there are 400,000 American jobs at stake” in the American exports to Arab countries which he put at $5 billion last year and indicated would be more than $7 billion this year.
Rep. Thomas Morgan (D.Pa,), chairman of the House International Relations Committee, sharply opposed Michael’s motion. “We cannot let those people in the Middle East discriminate against American citizens and that is exactly what they are doing and they have been doing it for a long, long time,” he said.
Morgan, whose committee hammered out the bill, observed: “There are certain big corporations like the Mobil Oil Corp. that are running full page ads in every newspaper in the country in opposition to this bill but we do not see such ads from the many companies that oppose boycotts and whose people are also out of work.”
Noting that anti-boycott laws are on the books in the states of Massachusetts, Maryland and Illinois and pending in Pennsylvania, Morgan declared that Congress must make “these laws national and we will find that Arab countries will come back into the community of nations and stop this silly boycotting of American citizens.”
According to Rosenthal, “Banks are among the principal enforcers of the boycott” among American companies. He charged that “they are the ones who exact compliance with the boycott as the price for payment by the Arab importer.” Rosenthal said that in April, May and June of this year, 131 banks reported that they had engaged in 8026 transactions involving 15,392 requests “to enforce restrictive trade practices” totalling $479 million.