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Commerce Department to Release Secret Documents Disclosing Names of U.S. Firms in the Arab Boycott

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The U.S. Department of Commerce agreed today to release an estimated quarter million pages of secret documents disclosing the names of the American companies that participated in the Arab boycott of Israel during an 11-year period that included two Arab-Israeli wars.

Secretary of Commerce Philip Klutznick, who made the announcement, said the Department’s decision settled a Freedom of Information Act suit filed on March 3, 1977 by Mark Green and the Corporate Accountability Research Group. Klutznick called the settlement “a constructive resolution of a complex public policy issue. It reconciles the Administration’s long-standing commitment to openness in government with the obligation of government to protect confidential business information.”

Green, who heads the Research Group and who is presently running for Congress from New York City on the Democratic Party ticket against the Republican incumbent Rep. Bill Green, filed the suit against the Commerce Department to force the disclosure of the documents after Commerce Secretary Juanita Kreps refused to release them voluntarily.

After an unsuccessful appeal by the Department to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the reports were ordered disclosed by the District Court, and the government will now comply with that order.

The documents cover the years from 1965 until late 1977 and involve nearly 63,000 boycott cases, Mark Green said today in New York. They contain familiar corporate names like Caterpillar, Mack Truck, General Tire and Upjohn, as well as the names of several thousand other American companies that agreed to Arab demands not to do business with Israel in order to trade with Arab states. Green said the documents would also show the types of goods traded and their value.

“These documents, never previously published, reveal the whole history of American corporate involvement in the boycott during an extremely dangerous period in Mideast history. We now will be able to learn which companies aided and abetted the Arab war machine at a time of maximum danger for Israel, a period that includes the 1967 and 1973 wars,” Green said.

“Participation in the boycott certainly was contrary to the goals and national security interests of American policy in the Middle East. While three successive Administrations were publicly committed to the defense and security of the State of Israel, these companies aided the enemies of Israel.” Green said the Arab-American trade included machinery parts, spare parts and accessories for tractors and other vehicles, fires, oil drilling equipment and technical literature and data.

KLUTZNICK PRAISES DILIGENT EFFORTS

Klutznick said the settlement was “the result of diligent efforts by Commerce Department and Justice Department staffs, U.S. firms who responded and supplied additional data as needed, and Mark Green and his attorneys, who pressed the issue and joined in a settlement that served the interests of all concerned.”

Under the terms of the Arab boycott, the participating companies were required to sign a statement that “the goods are not of Israeli origin nor contain any Israeli materials.” In addition, the companies had to state that their goods had not passed through Israeli parts nor been transported on Israeli carriers.

Since 1965, American companies which were requested by Arab clients to participate in the boycott were required to report this fact to the Department of Commerce. The information was considered confidential, and was not available for public inspection. Even the names of the participating firms were kept secret. American participation in the boycott was not made illegal until 1979, Green said.

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