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Ajcongress Reports Some Federal Officials May Have Violated American Anti-boycott Laws

August 9, 1984
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

An investigation by the General Accounting Office (GAO) of Congress suggests that federal officials of a joint United States-Saudi Arabian trade commission violated U.S. anti-boycott laws by discriminating against companies doing business with Israel, according to an article in the current issue of the American Jewish Congress’ Boycott Report.

The GAO has reported, according to the publication, that U.S. officials who act as procurement agents for the U.S.-Saudi Arabian Joint Commission on Economic Cooperation have been forced to choose between complying with the Arab boycott of Israel in order to facilitate projects in Saudi Arabia or obeying U.S. anti-boycott laws at the possible risk of delaying such projects.

This conflict has taken place despite a memorandum issued in 1982 by the U.S. director of the Joint Commission informing project personnel that “to be guided by a boycott list when placing orders is contrary to U.S. law and policy.”


The Joint Commission was established in June, 1974, to aid in the internal development of Saudi Arabia through cooperative programs in a broad range of fields including agriculture, trade and technology. The Saudi government has contributed more than $960 million to an account with the U.S. Treasury to fund Joint Commission projects.

Ten U.S. government agencies are involved in the program, including the Department of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Treasury and Transportation, among others. The agencies have representatives on the Joint Commission.

The investigation was requested in 1982 by the late Rep. Benjamin Rosenthal (D. NY), then the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Consumer and Monetary Affairs. His successor, Rep. Douglas Barnard (D. Ga.), renewed the request after Rosenthal’s death.

U.S. agencies serve as procurement agents for the Saudis because of that country’s lack of trained, experienced personnel in contracting and procurement. Most U.S. government officials interviewed by the GAO in its investigation were aware of the existence of the Arab boycott of Israel and of the companies on the list, says Boycott Report. None acknowledged they had been instructed by the Saudis not to contract with companies that are on the Arab boycott list for doing business with Israel.

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