International Boycotts Not Supported by the U.S.

U.S. regulations also prohibit any agreement to participate in an international boycott not supported by the U.S. government, such as the Arab League boycott of Israel. 

Boycott-related requests may be oral or written, and may appear as provisions in a proposed bid invitation, contract, purchase order, letter of credit, research or other agreement that calls for boycott-related information or action. The boycott regulations are broad and complex, regulating for example: (a) agreeing not to do business with an entity that has Jewish employees; (b) agreeing to stamp an invoice with the statement “We certify that goods are not of Israeli origin;” and (c) approving a letter of credit with the notation that “the goods cannot be shipped on a vessel that calls at Israeli ports.” Columbia University programs abroad cannot select one vendor or candidate over another for boycott reasons, and cannot furnish information about business relationships with Israel or with companies identified as having dealings with Israel. 

The law can be triggered through a seemingly informal discussion, never put in writing, such as an inquiry during negotiations about whether the program has any activities in Israel. Any such questions or discussions should not take place, unless they plainly do not relate to the boycott.  (For example, an inquiry about whether we have activities in Israel because of an interest to hold a conference there would not be trigger boycott concerns). Often the receipt of a request to cooperate in a boycott must be reported to the U.S. government – even when the offer is immediately refused. 

There actually are two sets of U.S. regulations: one issued by United States Department of Commerce and the other by the United States Department of Treasury.  Both regulations impose consequences for refusing to do business with or in Israel or blacklisted companies. In addition, under the Treasury rules, U.S. taxpayers with “operations in or related to” a boycotting country must report these operations in an annual income tax form. The term “operations” means all forms of transactions, whether or not producing income, including performing services.

The most recent list of countries and examples of boycott requests that have been reported to the Office of Antiboycott Compliance can be found through the Bureau of Industry and Security, in the U.S. Department of Commerce website.

In addition, programs abroad must not discriminate against employees or applicants for employment on the basis of race, color, sex, gender, religion, creed, national and ethnic origin, age, citizenship, status as a perceived or actual victim of domestic violence, disability, marital status, sexual orientation, status as a veteran, or any other legally protected status. Where conflicts exist between the laws, regulations, and customs of the host country and the program’s anti-discrimination policies, the matter should be referred to the Office of the General Counsel for guidance.

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