Judicial Watch Sues for Anti-Israel ‘BDS’ Lobbying Records
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch today announced that it filed two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of State for records of communications regarding anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) groups’ efforts to lobby the Obama administration to ignore trade laws that protect Israel.
Judicial Watch filed a FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the Department of Homeland Security failed to respond to two June 20 FOIA requests, one to the Department itself and one to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Bureau (CBP), a component of DHS (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Homeland Security (No. 1:17-cv-1650)). Judicial Watch is seeking:
- All emails which mention West Bank country-of-origin marking requirements, and were sent between [DHS or CBP] and any of the following groups: Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, Al-Awda, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Friends of Sabeel-North America, If Americans Knew, the International Solidarity Movement, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Muslim American Society, Students for Justice in Palestine, or the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (the “BDS Groups”).
- All emails internal to [DHS and/or CBP] discussing the efforts of the BDS Groups to strengthen enforcement of the West Bank country-of-origin marking requirements.
Judicial Watch also filed a FOIA lawsuit against the State Department after it failed to respond to a June 20 request (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:17-cv-01651)). Judicial Watch is seeking:
- All emails which mention protections for Israel in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, and were sent between [State Department] and any of the following groups: Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, Al-Awda, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Friends of Sabeel-North America, If Americans Knew, the International Solidarity Movement, Jewish Voice for Peace, the Muslim American Society, Students for Justice in Palestine, or the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (the “BDS Groups”).
- All internal [State Department] emails discussing the efforts of the BDS Groups to limit protections for Israel in the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015.
In February 2016 President Obama signed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 into law, which forces U.S. trade partners to cut ties to the BDS movement and protects Israel territories. But Obama announced:
Certain provisions of this Act, by conflating Israel and “Israeli-controlled territories,” are contrary to longstanding bipartisan United States policy, including with regard to the treatment of settlements. Moreover, consistent with longstanding constitutional practice, my Administration will interpret and implement the provisions in the Act that purport to direct the Executive to seek to negotiate and enter into particular international agreements (section 414(a)(1)) or to take certain positions in international negotiations with respect to international agreements with foreign countries not qualifying for trade authorities procedures (sections 108(b), 414(a)(2), 415, and 909(c)) in a manner that does not interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct diplomacy.
Shortly after Obama signed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015, the Customs and Border Protection Bureau restated the West Bank Country of Origin Marking Requirement rules requiring labeling of goods from the West Bank. The Jerusalem Post later reported the restated rules were a result of several complaints filed by activists seeking the U.S. follow policy guidelines distinguishing goods produced from Israel and the West Bank.
The West Bank country-of-origin marking requirements is said to stem from “longstanding bipartisan U.S. policy” toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. First put in place in 1995 under the Clinton administration, the rule is to preserve the distinction between the goods produced in State of Israel and the good produced in the territories it controls over the Green Line.
The BDS movement was started by the PLO and other anti-Israel groups to encourage an economic and cultural boycott of Israel. It has gained the support of radical leftwing groups here in the United States, especially on college campuses.
“President Obama advanced the agenda of anti-Israel radicals in subverting U.S. law that rejects the malicious anti-Israel boycott movement,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “And it is no surprise the Deep State ignores our FOIA requests that could expose the Obama-BDS connections. It is well past time for the Trump administration to stop this obstruction and follow the FOIA law.”