Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Congressman Juan Vargas (D-CA) have just introduced sweeping revisions to anti-boycott legislation long on the books, in order to counter the global and domestic anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Prior legislation countering the Arab League Boycott arguably did not apply to the BDS movement because BDS is not a country-sponsored boycott. I believe that BDS was structured that way to evade such legislation, and Congress appears to be both tightening the language, and expanding its scope.

The Times of Israel reports that the bill is linked to pending U.S.-European Union trade negotiations:

The bill, which has been worked on for over six months, does not authorize any sort of federal response to domestic BDS initiatives, but rather would use free trade negotiations to discourage foreign and international institutions from supporting initiatives to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel.

The bill’s sponsors have their eyes on the ongoing negotiations to create a free trade agreement between the US and EU – an agreement that proponents say will be the largest free trade deal in history….

In order for the free-trade deal with the EU to be brought to fruition, Congress must pass the Trade Protection Authority, which enables the president to negotiate free trade deals. The TPA comes with a series of major objectives for negotiations – and the bill’s sponsors hope to include rejection of BDS as one of them.

“We see this bill as one piece of a puzzle. There is no one solution to the BDS movement – there is an economic side, an academic side, a cultural side,” said an aide to Roskam. “We think this is a proactive approach that looks forward at the free trade negotiations that we’re having with the EU and we think this could have a significant impact.”

The bill’s sponsors drew parallels to laws passed by Congress in the 1970s regarding the Arab League boycott of Israel, and noted that more recent trade agreements with Bahrain and Oman included anti-boycott clauses.

Targeting Europe is significant, as it is the only place that the economic BDS movement has gained any traction.

As with any piece of legislation, it will take some time to understand the significance of all the provisions, even though it only is 12 pages. The full Bill is here (embed at bottom).

My first read-through indicates that the Bill expands the reporting requirements to include BDS activities: By including boycotts and attempts to enforce trade discrimination by non-member states, which now includes “Palestine” at the U.N., and by including a definition of BDS that applies to international organizations, not just states; and covers the “Israeli-controlled” territories:

SEC. 8. DEFINITIONS.
2 In this Act:
3 (1) BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT FROM, AND SANC-
4 TIONS AGAINST ISRAEL.—The term ‘‘boycott, divest-
5 ment from, and sanctions against Israel’’ means ac-
6 tions by states, non-member states of the United
7 Nations, international organizations, or affiliated
8 agencies of international organizations that are po-
9 litically motivated and are intended to penalize or
10 otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with
11 Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in
12 Israeli-controlled territories.

It states as Congressional intent the desire to oppose BDS in all its forms:

23 SEC. 3. STATEMENTS OF POLICY.
24 Congress—
* * *
13 (4) opposes politically motivated actions that
14 penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations spe-
15 cifically with Israel such as boycotts, divestment or
16 sanctions;
17 (5) notes that the boycott, divestment, and
18 sanctioning of Israel by governments, governmental
19 bodies, quasi-governmental bodies, international or-
20 ganizations, and other such entities is contrary to
21 the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
22 (GATT) principle of non-discrimination;
23 (6) encourages the inclusion of politically moti-
24 vated actions that penalize or otherwise limit com-
25 mercial relations specifically with Israel such as boy
1 cotts, divestment from, or sanctions against Israel as
2 a topic of discussion at the U.S.-Israel Joint Eco-
3 nomic Development Group (JEDG) and other areas
4 to support the strengthening of the United States-
5 Israel commercial relationship and combat any com-
6 mercial discrimination against Israel;
7 (7) supports efforts to prevent investigations or
8 prosecutions by governments or international organi-
9 zations of United States persons on the sole basis of
10 such persons doing business with Israel, with Israeli
11 entities, or in Israeli-controlled territories; and
12 (8) supports American States examining a com-
13 pany’s promotion or compliance with unsanctioned
14 boycotts, divestment from, or sanctions against
15 Israel as part of its consideration in awarding grants
16 and contracts and supports the divestment of State
17 assets from companies that support or promote ac-
18 tions to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel.

The Bill, consistent with existing legislation, requires reporting by the President and by affected companies and persons, as to boycott activity, which now includes the BDS movement.

Significantly, “foreign issuers” of securities in the U.S. will have to report their compliance. This is directly targeting European companies which are under pressure to join the BDS movement. Now they will have to make federal securities law filings.

So what does this all mean?

I still need to do more thinking on this, but my first impression is that this bill is directed at European companies, a few of which have signed onto BDS in one form or another, particularly as to goods manufactures in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and conduct in East Jerusalem.

I’m not sure that this is the end of BDS, but it has raised the stakes for large international businesses in Europe that seek to join the BDS movement.

Here is the full Bill:

U.S. House Anti BDS Bill February 2015