The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has stated it was misquoted by American Jewish media and that it backs the recently passed anti-boycott law in Israel.
“The Jewish Telegraph Agency picked up a comment by ZOA president Morton A. Klein” but quoted him out of context, according to the organization’s Israel director Jeff Daube.
Klein has said that he was “appalled” at the left-wing cultural boycott of the Ariel Cultural Center in Samaria and that “there is something of a problem” making boycotts illegal. Klein added he wanted “to study” the bill further.
Daube said that the original JTA report was inaccurate and that the organization now is doing ”damage control.”
In supporting the bill, which has been criticized by most leftists and mainstream media, the ZOA stated, “Israel is under existential threat from many countries and peoples around the world. Israel is enduring an organized worldwide campaign to boycott, divest from and sanction (BDS) the Jewish state."
The ZOA sharply criticized the New Israel Fund for having “falsely claimed that the bill “criminalizes freedom of speech,” and said that "Gush Shalom falsely states the law is ‘a death sentence for the right to freedom of expression.’ The anti-boycott law applies to any area under Israeli control. The global BDS movement targets all of Israel, even within the Green Line, and explicitly rejects the existence of Israel within any borders.”
“Israel is also watching with deep concern as its neighbors are undergoing dramatic change which could bring even more radical Islamist, anti-Israel, anti-US, and anti-West governments into power.”
He cited Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin, who wrote, “Those seeking to implement boycotts are not merely expressing criticism of government policies but are, in fact, waging economic warfare on Israel. Moreover, such boycotts are not merely symbolic efforts to chide the Jewish state on a particular issue but part of an insidious international conspiracy to strangle a nation."
“If the majority of Israelis, and it would appear a majority of the country as well as the Knesset backs this measure, it is because they rightly see advocacy of boycotts as racist attacks on their very existence… Israel’s foes are not, as some in this country falsely assert, merely objecting to its possession of the West Bank and the city of Jerusalem but its very existence.”
The ZOA added it "believes that Jewish organizations should be very careful about telling Israel how to protect its security and economic interests, especially when enemies of Israel and outright anti-Semites are using the words of Jewish organizations that criticize Israel to encourage and promote their own external boycott, delegitimization and sanction efforts against Israel."
One of ZOA’s concerns over the new anti-boycott law was criminal penalties against people calling for cultural, economic or academic boycotts. "ZOA now sees that the enacted Law has eliminated any criminal penalties for boycotting Israeli products or institutions, and allows only civil remedies such as fines and eliminating government funding to violators," the organization stated.
It continued, “The ZOA now is more sympathetic with the Israeli Knesset’s actions even though the Law is not perfect, e.g. the wording of the Law is vague, therefore could be interpreted to apply to any boycott of an Israeli citizen or anybody for almost any violation and as such could cause a 'chilling effect' on all boycotts.”
Eli Hertz, a member of the ZOA national board, commented, “The Anti-boycott laws under the U.S. Export Administration Act of 1979 [as amended in August 1999] were written specifically to protect Israel from the Arab League and other Moslem countries.
“The Knesset passed an Anti-boycott law against those who promote and call to boycott Israel… A look at the U.S. Anti-boycott laws' objectives should be helpful in defending the Israeli law."
"The [U.S.] Anti-boycott laws discourage, and in some circumstances, prohibit U.S. companies from furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel sponsored by the Arab League, and certain Moslem countries, including complying with certain requests for information designed to verify compliance with the boycott. Compliance with such requests may be prohibited by the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and may be reportable to the Bureau."
“Acting against the U.S. laws is considered a criminal behavior and carry with it penalties of up to $1 million and 20 years imprisonment per violation.”
OU blasts law's detractors
The president of the Orthodox Union, Simcha Katz, attacked US Jewish groups that recently chastised Israel over the Anti-Boycott Law
“We live in the United States, we haven’t served in the army, we don’t pay taxes [in Israel], so it would be inappropriate for us to publicly, in some fashion, criticize Israel on what they do to protect themselves,” he said .
“On a personal level,” Katz noted, “I fully agree with the anti-boycott legislation. It was based on US legislation, which has criminal components to it. This doesn’t have criminal components to it; essentially, it’s a financial potential component. Generally we support the Israeli government per se. The OU hasn’t taken a position, and generally we are supportive of what the Israeli government in power does,"