ZOA President Morton A. Klein and Chair Mark Levenson, Esq. released the following statement:
ZOA strongly supports the new bill introduced by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rob Portman (R-OH) to require reporting by the State Department on any Arab government which punishes its own citizens who engage in people-to-people relations with Israelis. Once passed, the bill (S. 4482) will require the 2021 through 2026 State Dept. “Country Report on Human Rights Practices” to include for each country under the jurisdiction of the Near Eastern Bureau the presence of any laws which prohibit normalization with Israel, list instances of punishment for citizens who interact with Israelis, detail examples of extrajudicial punishment of citizens who interact with Israelis, and list any positive steps the government in each country has taken to encourage people-to-people relationships.
The bill also recounts the history of actions by the Arab League and Arab governments in general to criminalize any advocacy for Israel or praise for Israeli individuals. The Arab League continues a boycott of all Israeli goods, and several U.S. laws already outlaw cooperation with this boycott. The bill notes the “rising tide of Arab civic actors [who] advocate direct engagement with Israeli citizens and residents. These include the Arab Council for Regional Integration, a group of 32 public figures from 15 Arab countries who oppose the boycott of Israel on the grounds that the boycott has denied Arabs the benefits of partnership with Israelis, has blocked Arabs from helping to bridge the Israeli-Palestinian divide, and inspired divisive intra-Arab boycotts among diverse sects and ethnic groups.”
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said: “The most important reason we have not seen an ending to the Arab war against Israel and Jews is that the Arab countries have refused to even consider peace with an Israel that is a recognized state of the Jewish People. The continued criminalization and ostracism of individuals in Arab countries who seek to engage Israelis as fellow human beings is a symptom of this larger malignancy in these Arab countries. Even countries who have peace treaties with Israel often punish any praise of an Israeli policy or individual. If we are ever to have real peace, changing this fact is a clear prerequisite.”
ZOA Director of Government Relations Dan Pollak said: “This bipartisan measure sponsored by Sen. Booker and Sen. Portman is an important step towards changing the existing attitude in too many Arab countries, and even among some U.S. diplomats, that hostility to Israel and Israelis is acceptable. We salute them for furthering the work that Secretary Pompeo has done in seeking to normalize relations with Israel at all levels of interaction. The annual reports produced by the State Dept. should include this information, and ZOA hopes that this legislation will result in concrete changes in the routine hate that is directed against Israel by governments and civil society in the region. We strongly urge all Senators to sign on to this legislation and will be actively working with lawmakers to author a companion bill for introduction in the House of Representatives.”