WASHINGTON (Feb. 21)
Major American Jewish organizations urged today “swift enactment” by Congress of the Williams-Proxmire bill to combat the Arab boycott of Israel where it involves American companies doing business with that country.
In prepared testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on International Finance which held the first of its three hearings on pending anti-boycott legislation, the Jewish groups said the measure offered by Sens. William Proxmire (D.Wis.) and Harrison A. Williams Jr. (D.NJ) is the one “most capable of shielding the U.S. from devisive foreign economic pressures, threats of intimidation and religious discrimination.”
The statement was presented by Maxwell E. Greenberg, chairman of the national executive committee of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. Associated with the ADL in the testimony are the American Jewish Committee. American Jewish Congress and other constituent agencies of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council.
In addition to the Williams-Proxmire bill, the subcommittee is considering anti-boycott legislation proposed by Sen. Adlai Stevenson (D.Ill.). Stevenson is chairman of the subcommittee and Proxmire is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee of which the subcommittee is a part. Greenberg described both bills as “strong, yet reasoned responses to the boycott’s demonstrable intrusion upon America’s commercial life.” But he said the Williams-Proxmire measure was preferable because of its treatment of certificates of origin.
Greenberg said the Stevenson bill permits “negative” certificates of origin which require American exporters, banks, freight forwarders and others to certify that goods being shipped to Arab countries are not of Israeli origin. The Williams-Proxmire bill prohibits such certificates. Instead, it allows “positive” certificates of origin “a common foreign trade practice” that calls for an affirmative statement naming the country of origin or manufacture.
LAWMAKERS STATE THEIR VIEWS
Proxmire said at the opening of the hearings that he did not “question the authority of the Arab nations to refuse to do business with Israel” but that he did “object to the Arab nations using their power to dictate the terms of trade to American firms.” Williams said “American businessmen must have freedom of choice as to their commercial relationships any place in the world, especially at home.”
Stevenson, advocating his proposal, cautioned that “While we seek to protect American sovereignty, we must recognize the sovereignty of others.” He urged the U.S. not to “signal ill will to friends or take any action to end the boycott which will perpetuate it or retard the feeble movement toward peace in the Middle East.”
BUSINESS EXECS OPPOSE ANTI-BOYCOTT BILLS
A number of business executives appeared to testify against any anti-boycott legislation. William R. Needham, vice-president of Black and Veatch International, who represented the American. Consulting Engineers Council, noted that President Carter is making “a major diplomatic effort at this very moment towards a Middle East peace settlement” and that Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, who will testify before the subcommittee Feb. 28, has conveyed invitations from the President to Middle East leaders to visit Washington.
“It would be unfortunate indeed if the U.S. Congress were to pass legislation directed specifically against the Arab nations at a time when the executive branch of the government is seeking to reconcile opposing views.” Needham said. He warned that “the anti-boycott legislation which is before this committee would have a chilling effect on American business development in the Middle East and have the practical effect of diverting that business to other nations.”