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Ajcongress Says N.Y. Port Official Erred in Blaming Loss of Cargoes on State Anti-boycott Law

The American Jewish Congress said today that there was not “one shred of evidence” to support a recent claim by an official of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that the Port of New York suffered a loss of export cargoes because of New York State’s anti-boycott law that went into effect early in 1976. Naomi Levine, executive director of the AJCongress, accused Clifford B. O’Hara, the Port Authority’s director of port commerce of presenting a “grossly inaccurate and distorted picture.”

O’Hara said at the semi-annual meeting of the North Atlantic Ports Association in Newport, R.I. last week that the Port of New York lost roughly 300,000 tons of export cargo since 1976, largely because of the legislation aimed at countering the effects of the Arab boycott of Israel on American business. He said the port had little chance of regaining the lost business despite the new federal anti-boycott law, to be signed by President Carter, which would equalize competition for Arab business.

But Levine said that O’Hara’s claim was “without foundation” and suggested that “blaming the anti-boycott law has the unfortunate result of diverting public attention from the real and serious problems facing the Port of New York.” She cited Census Bureau figures made available to the AJCongress by the Port Authority’s Planning and Development Department which showed that export tonnage from New York to Arab countries actually increased after the anti-boycott law went into effect.

Levine said that in 1976, ocean-going export cargoes to Arab states, except Lebanon, from the Port of New York totaled 274,634 long tons compared to 253,763 long tons in 1975. “This increase would have been significantly greater were it not for the civil war in Lebanon which paralyzed the country’s economy and which resulted in a sharp decline in shipments to Beirut,” she said. She noted a marked increase of air cargoes to Arab states passing through the Port of New York amounting to 22,728 long tons in 1976, up from 16,450 long tons in 1975. She said this was further evidence that the state anti-boycott law had little or no effect on trade passing through the port.

Levine contended that the losses suffered by the Port of New York were rooted in problems that have nothing to do with the anti-boycott law. She pointed out that export cargoes to Israel and other countries opposed to the boycott declined in 1976.

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