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November 22, 2016 2:27 pm

Congressman Behind New Anti-BDS Bill: We Want to Do Everything We Can to Protect Israel

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

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Interview
Peter Roskam (R-IL 6th District). Photo: Facebook.

Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL 6th District). Photo: Facebook.

The anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement is an “insidious” phenomenon that must be tackled head-on, an Illinois congressman who co-authored a new anti-BDS bill told The Algemeiner on Monday.

“It’s unfair and it’s gratuitous,” Republican Peter Roskam said of the BDS movement. “And I think that there is recognition in Congress that a strong Israel is good for the United States, and we want a strong and stable partner in the Middle East. So we want to do everything we can to protect Israel.”

Earlier this month, Roskam and Democrat Juan Vargas of California introduced the “Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act” — the purpose of which, according to its text, is to “amend the Export Administration Act of 1979 to include in the prohibitions on boycotts against allies of the United States boycotts fostered by international governmental organizations against Israel and to direct the Export-Import Bank of the United States to oppose boycotts against Israel.” This is a companion bill to legislation introduced in the Senate in September by Republican Rob Portman of Ohio and Democrat Ben Cardin of Maryland.

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The legislative push, Roskam told The Algemeiner, was prompted by the UN Human Rights Council’s decision in March to set up a database of Israeli companies operating in the West Bank.

“We were successful [in 2015] in amending the US trade statute to make it a stated trading objective of the United States to push back against BDS,” Roskam said. “But now some of the activity has moved to these international governmental organizations, and this bill is basically a technical fix to address where the debate has shifted to…It more broadly defines what boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel means, to include international governmental organizations that fall out of the typical categories.”

A statement released by Roskam’s office when the bill was unveiled last week said, “The ‘Protecting Israel Against Economic Discrimination Act’ puts Congress on the record opposing the UNHRC resolution and other attempts to economically harm and delegitimize Israel. This legislation also requires the Export-Import Bank to consider BDS activity when evaluating potential applicants. US taxpayer-backed financing should not be available to those who choose to conduct economic warfare against Israel.”

Roskam — who was re-elected two weeks ago to a sixth term in the House of Representatives — explained why he thinks there is “overwhelming” bipartisan support in Congress for the fight against BDS. “I mean, good grief, you got one nation that is held to a standard by which nobody else is held to,” he said.

Asked about the prospects of his new bill becoming approved, Roskam replied, “Based on past experience, it’s more likely true than not true that this gets signed into law…It could either be signed into law as a stand-alone piece of legislation, or it could be included in a larger package as an amendment of some sort. But it is very much in line with the direction Congress has gone in the past. We’re not breaking new ground. We’re just kind of completing this.”

Furthermore, Roskam noted, “When I’ve spoken to Israeli leaders about BDS, there’s an urgency, there’s a real concern that this is not something to be dismissive of…If you don’t attend to these things when they are brought to your attention, nothing good happens.”

Looking ahead to the future of US-Israel relations after Donald Trump becomes president in January, Roskam said, “I think our ties are going to change and be much more positive. I think that the backhanded nature of the Obama administration’s treatment of Israel and the pressure on Israel to bid against itself vis-a-vis the Palestinian question are going to go away, and the Trump administration is likely to be much more forward-leaning in its vocal support for Israel.”

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