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Senate Hearings Due on Boycott

Senate hearings on legislation to combat the Arab boycott of American companies doing business with Israel have been re-scheduled to follow Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance’s one-week trip to the Middle East beginning Feb. 15. The hearings on measures proposed by Sens. Adlai Stevenson (D.Ill.) and William Proxmire (D.Wis.) had been tentatively scheduled for early this month.

Vance suggested to the Senators that they postpone them until he returns from his trip and they are now scheduled for Feb. 21-22 and Feb. 28. A report yesterday by columnists Evans and Novak said that President Carter’s policy on anti-boycott legislation is to “delay Congress as long as possible in hope that real progress toward a Mideast settlement will be made.” They said the requested delay indicated “a surprising hint of flexibility on U.S. moves against the Arab boycott of Israel.”

This was characterized as “nonsense” by reliable Capital Hill sources. They pointed out that the two-week postponement of the hearings neither weakens the substance of the proposed legislation or support for it. During the election campaign, Carter described the Arab boycott as “not a matter of diplomacy or trade” but “a matter of morality.”

NATURE OF THE TWO BILLS

Two bills will be aired at the Senate’s hearings to be conducted by the Senate Banking Committee chaired by Proxmire and its Subcommittee on International Finance led by Stevenson. One measure, by Stevenson, is identical to the compromise bill that was agreed upon in informal Senate-House conference when Congress adjourned Oct. 2.

This measure, originally written by Stevenson and J. Harrison Williams (D. NJ) and Reps. Jonathan Bingham and Benjamin Rosenthal, both New York Democrats, would prevent U.S. firms from refusing to do business with any firm blacklisted by the Arab governments or agreeing to refuse to do business with Israel.

The second measure, by Proxmire, agrees with the Stevenson bill except that it prohibits the issuance of a negative certificate of origin, such as naming goods made in Israel. It also eliminates intent as an element of wrongdoing. Thus a company cannot give ignorance or good intention as an excuse for not doing business with Israel. Whether a company intends to violate the law or not, it still would be in violation under the Proxmire legislation.

In the House, Bingham has introduced companion legislation to the Stevenson bill. The Proxmire additions have not yet been put in bill form. Hearings are not yet scheduled. They will be once the Senate gets its measures well underway.

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