The US House Foreign Affairs Committee has voted to advance a bill that would expand existing anti-boycott laws in the country amidst Washington's concerns that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is targeting Israel in retaliation for its military assault on Gaza.

Letters of credit (L/Cs) that breach anti-boycott rules are specifically contemplated in toughened US anti-boycott policy which came into effect on 8 October 2022.

Trade finance banks are also at risk of breaching the rules by passing on underlying documents such as bills of lading that may provide information on business relationships with boycotted countries or blacklisted persons (DC World News, 31 October 2022).

Expanded core requirement

The core of current US anti-boycott legislation revolves around one key principle: preventing participation in "foreign boycotts" that are not endorsed by Washington.

The proposed legislation would expand this core requirement to include a second principle: preventing participation in boycotts organised by any "international governmental organisation".

The BDS is just that. It is a global movement made up of unions, academic associations, churches and grassroots movements across the world.

BDS boycott calls

The boycotts the BDS is calling for involve withdrawing support from what it calls Israel's apartheid regime, complicit Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions, and from all Israeli and international companies engaged in violations of Palestinian human rights.

But US congressman Mike Lawler, in a statement released after he proposed his act anti-boycott act, which passed 42-3 through the House Foreign Affairs Committee, proposes a different view. The act, he says, "is an important measure in the global fight against antisemitism."

"By protecting US companies from being forced to participate in boycotts against allied countries, Congress is firmly stating our proactive opposition to the BDS movement and other foreign boycotts that stand counter to American ideals."

This article represents the views of the author and not necessarily those of the ICC or Coastline Solutions.