Saudi Embassy Officials Accused of Violating U.S. Anti-boycott Laws

The American Jewish Congress has accused the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington of violating American law by providing a service that gives information over the telephone on the Arab boycott of Israel, it was reported in the AJCongress’ monthly publication, Boycott Report. The Saudi Arabian practice was described as an abuse of diplomatic privilege. The AJCongress said it wanted the State Department to crack down by warning that unless the practice is stopped, Saudi diplomats involved in the scheme will be declared “persona non grata” and asked to leave the country.

William Maslow, AJCongress general counsel, said the agency is working with members of the Senate to have the problem brought to the attention of the State Department for appropriate action. The Boycott Report said that the “bold as brass” Saudi attempt to circumvent American anti-boycott laws was initiated when the Saudi Embassy’s commercial section spread the word that it would answer telephone inquiries about the blacklist status of American firms or individuals.

By calling the Embassy’s commercial section, a caller can learn whether a particular firm is on the Saudi blacklist, the Boycott noted. The Embassy does not require the caller to put the request in writing or give a reason for the inquiry. Although the caller is asked for his name and company, no attempt is made to check his or her real identity.

SAYS PRACTICE SHOULD NOT BE TOLERATED

The AJCongress said that the policy of providing information to telephone callers encourages violation of anti-boycott laws and makes it more difficult to catch and prosecute lawbreakers. The Boycott Report said the State Department should not tolerate such an effort to circumvent federal laws through the misuse by the Saudi Embassy of its diplomatic privilege.

The Boycott Report also noted that under federal anti-boycott legislation, requests by American firms or individuals for blacklist information are by themselves not illegal. Only the transmission of such data to others or actual participation in the boycott is a violation of law.

Federal anti-boycott laws enacted in 1976 and 1977 penalize American taxpayers who participate in or cooperate with an international boycott not sanctioned by the United States government. The 1977 legislation in particular forbids any “U.S. person ” from furnishing information concerning the existence or absence of a business relationship with a boycotted company.

A principal target of the legislation was the Arab boycott of Israel, which has remained in force since the Jewish State was founded in 1948. The boycott has included the maintenance of an Arab blacklist of firms that do business with Israel or have relations with other companies that do business with Israel.

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