ADL Charges Commerce Dep’t, Assisting Arab Boycott Operations Against Israel
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ADL Charges Commerce Dep’t, Assisting Arab Boycott Operations Against Israel

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The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai-B’rith today charged that the U.S. Department of Commerce is itself “cooperating and assisting” in Arab boycott operations against Israel while reminding American firms that federal law requires them to report boycott requests.

In a letter of protest to Secretary of Commerce Rogers Morton, Seymour Graubard, national chairman of the ADL, said that the Department is disseminating foreign tenders which include boycott provisions against Israel. He specifically cited a nationally disseminated letter from the Department’s Office of Business Research and Analysis to which was attached a June, 1975 communication from Iraq seeking to purchase 3550 pre-cast buildings.

Included in the specifications, terms and conditions, was a boycott provision reading as follows; “Country of Origin: The tenderer should not incorporate (sic) this tender any material that has been manufactured in Israel or by companies boycotted officially by Iraqi government.”

When the matter came to ADL’s attention, Graubard said, the ADL telephoned the Commerce Department desk which circulated the mailing and was advised that “it is routine practice” to disseminate such tenders. In some cases, ADL was told, the Commerce Department “writes them up,” and in other cases, the distribution is arranged by computer. Graubard said the League was also informed that the tenders are received by Commerce from the U.S. State Department. The letter itself states that Commerce received the tender from “a U.S. foreign service post.”


Under the direction of Arnold Forster, ADL’s associate director and general counsel, a League representative visited the Department of Commerce and examined tenders distributed by its Office of Domestic and International Business-Trade Operation from about 1974 to the present.

The ADL only spot-checked tenders from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria, Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates and found one other instance in which the Department distributed a tender containing Arab boycott provisions and other questionable informational requirements.

Forster said the tender containing Arab boycott provisions was a bid received March 4, 1975, inviting tenders for a supply of industrial locomotives to a company in Samawah, Iraq. Attached to the form was a listing of “General Terms and Conditions.” In a section titled “Certificate of Origin,” was the following:

“Tenderer must submit certificate of origin specifying that the goods are not of Israeli origin, not the company having a branch in Israel, and that they will not be shipped on Israeli or black-listed vessels. This certificate must be legalized by the Iraqi or any Arab consulate or representative and in the case of their non-existence, legalization by Chamber of Commerce or Industry in the Country of Origin or port of shipment will suffice.”


In addition, the ADL search of Commerce files turned up informational requirements which if complied with, Forster said, would enable the Arab country to take the next step of rejecting bids that violate boycott rules. He gave the following as examples:

Egypt–bidders must submit offers through Egyptian commercial companies or through an Egyptian agent (which may limit freedom of trade by having to go through such contacts); Qatar–in a bid for tenders received Sept. 24, 1974, regarding communication pipes, “Tenders should include product’s country of origin and name of producers…”: Libya–bid for tenders received Aug. 16, 1974, requires bidding through Libyan agent. Further, this bid request for X-ray diagnostic units for eight Libyan hospitals states “Restricted Tender Board can reject any tender without explanation.”

“It is ironic,” Graubard declared in his letter to Morton, “that the Commerce Department distributes warnings to American companies to remind them that the provisions of the Export Administration Act require a report to the Department of any request for boycott compliance–while your Department itself is disseminating proposed purchases which include requests for Arab boycott.” He asked that “the Commerce Department comply with American public policy as set forth in the Export Administration Act, which opposes submission to boycott demands of friendly countries by other foreign powers.”

Earlier this month, Commerce Department officials reported that the Department’s Office of Export Administration had sent a letter to more than 30,000 U.S. firms which export goods abroad in order to remind them of a 1965 federal law that requires them to report boycott requests. According to the OEA, a total of 1800 such requests were reported in April, May and June.

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