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Major Jewish Leaders, National Group Assess Arab Boycott and Responses by the Administration

October 12, 1976
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Two national Jewish leaders and a national representative body of Jewish groups spoke out in the past few days on the issue of the Arab boycott and the Ford Administration’s handling of this situation.

Rabbi Alexander Schindler, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said that while the executive order, announced last Wednesday night by President Ford during his debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Jimmy Carter requiring that Arab boycott demands be made public, would call attention to those corporations that surrender to the boycott pressures, “there is still no law that protects American companies from Arab pressure to stop trading with Israel and to stop trading with other U.S. companies trading with Israel.”

Max M. Fisher, Detroit industrialist who is chairman of “People for Ford” in the Jewish community, in a communication being widely distributed, hailed Ford’s “further action” to combat the boycott and called attention to the “far-reaching steps taken by President Ford in the last year-and-a-half.” Noting Ford’s announcement last week, Fisher stated that “this will bring out in the open which companies are supporting the boycott and will give the American people an opportunity to react and also give the companies pause as to whether to continue compliance with the boycott when it becomes a matter of public record.”


The National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, charged in a statement that “parliamentary obstructions” with the backing of the Administration had prevented Congress from enacting amendments to the Export Administration Act that would have prohibited U.S. firms from participating in the boycott against Israel, thus allowing the act to expire Sept. 30.

The NJCRAC, comprising nine national Jewish organizations and 100 Jewish community relations councils in cities throughout the country, branded the Administration’s arguments against the amendments as “a shameful knuckling under to Arab attempts to dictate American policy and the business conduct of American companies.” Some of the amendments had passed the Senate and others the House by majorities of 5-1 in both chambers, NJCRAC stated.

Schindler, in discussing legislation required to protect U.S. firms from Arab pressure, declared that this “must become a top priority for the next Congress and Administration no matter who is elected President.” He continued: “Without such laws, the quality of citizenship of American Jews and all who support and trade with Israel will continue to be under growing Arab attack. Without such laws, the Arab states will remain free to exploit American industry as a weapon in their economic war against Israel.”


Fisher, who is also a member of the President’s campaign steering committee, made his views known in a “Dear Friend” letter on stationery of the “President Ford Committee” sent to more than 4000 leaders of the Jewish community. Accompanying it is a “fact sheet” issued by the White House explaining Ford’s directive to Commerce Secretary Elliot Richardson on boycott-related reports by U.S. firms.

“We have heard a lot of rhetoric from the other candidate but very few specifics,” Fisher stated. “With President Ford, we have a record of a clear and committed stance in opposition to the boycott. The President has not taken every action which has been urged on him by various members of the community, but when you consider he is the first President ever to take any action, and when you look at what he has done, the record is really impressive.”

The NJCRAC statement asserted that laws are needed “to deny the Arab states the means of playing off American businesses one against the other; to protect American companies against unfair competition from other companies less scrupulous in their business ethics and sense of fair play.” It noted that the Arabs are dependent on U.S. equipment and know-how and that the impact of the boycott “will be nullified, without damage to America’s economy” if the U.S. government and business community refuse to collaborate in the boycott.


Meanwhile, White House press secretary Ron Nessen claimed today that Ford had a “responsible compromise…a reasonable compromise” over the anti-boycott provisions in the Export Administration act extension bill which died when Congress adjourned Oct. 2 without acting on the measure. He said that Ford wanted to present the compromise and that it was “pushed through the Congressional liaison office” but “Congress went away without doing it.” Nessen did not describe the nature of the compromise.

Asked why the President had advanced his compromise legislation three days before Congress adjourned when he had felt previously that anti-boycott legislation was not required, Nessen replied that Ford opposed legislation because he had “already taken” effective action against the boycott in Nov. 1975. At that time Ford expressed the opposition of the Administration to discrimination against Americans as a result of the boycott.

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