Arab League Boycott of Israel Page: 1 of 6
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Order Code RS22424
Updated May 19, 2006
CR8 Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Arab League Boycott of Israel
Martin A. Weiss
Analyst in International Trade and Finance
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
The Arab League has maintained an official boycott of Israeli companies and
Israeli-made goods since the founding of Israel in 1948. The United States actively
opposes the boycott and works on both bilateral and multilateral fronts to end it. The
U.S. government also enforces laws that prohibit U.S. firms from participating in the
boycott. This report will be updated as events warrant.
The Arab League is an umbrella organization comprising 23 Middle Eastern and
African countries and entities.' The League was founded in 1944, and in 1945 began a
boycott of Zionist goods and services in the British mandate territory of Palestine. In
1948, following the war establishing Israel's independence, the boycott was formalized
against the state of Israel and broadened to include non-Israelis who maintain economic
relations with Israel or who are perceived to support it. The boycott is administered by
the Damascus-based Central Boycott Office (CBO), a specialized bureau of the Arab
The U.S. government has often been at the forefront of international efforts to end
enforcement of the boycott and to seek the Arab League's revocation of it. U.S.
legislative action related to the boycott dates from 1959 and includes multiple statutory
provisions expressing U.S. opposition to the boycott, usually in foreign assistance
legislation. In 1965, mandatory reporting of any requests for U.S. companies to
participate in the boycott was adopted. In 1977, Congress passed laws making it illegal
for U.S. companies to cooperate with the boycott and authorizing the imposition of civil
and criminal penalties against U.S. violators. In addition, taxpayers who cooperate with
the boycott are subject to the loss of tax benefits that the U.S. government provides to
exporters. U.S. regulations define cooperating with the boycott as: (1) agreeing to or
actually refusing to do business in Israel or with a blacklisted company; (2) agreeing to
or actually discriminating against other persons based on race, religion, sex, national
origin or nationality; (3) agreeing to or actually furnishing information about business
Members are: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Sudan,
Morocco, Tunisia, Kuwait, Algeria, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Mauritania,
Somalia, Palestinian Authority, Djibouti, and Comoros. In 2003, Eritrea joined the Arab League
as an observer.
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Arab League Boycott of Israel, report, May 19, 2006; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc808579/m1/1/: accessed April 20, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.