Judicial Watch Sues Departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security to Obtain Anti-Israel ‘Boycott, Divestiture, and Sanctions’ (BDS) Lobbying Records
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of State, and the U.S. Department of Defense for all records of communications regarding anti-Israel group Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) efforts to lobby the Obama administration to adopt policies to harm companies doing business with Israel (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense (No. 1:18-cv-01721)).
The suit was filed after all three agencies failed to respond to nearly identical April 23, 2018, FOIA requests seeking:
All emails to or from current or former officials in the [DOD, DHS, or State] Office of the Secretary containing the phrase “boycott divestment and sanctions.”
All emails to or from current or former officials in the [DOD, DHS, or State] Office of the Secretary containing both the terms “BDS” and “Israel.”
The timeframe of these requests is January 1, 2015, through December 31, 2015.
In February 2016 President Obama signed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 into law, which compels U.S. trade partners to cut ties to the BDS movement and protects Israel territories illegal discrimination. 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 act, the Customs and Border Protection Bureau restated the West Bank Country of Origin Marking Requirement rules requiring labeling of goods as being from the “West Bank,” despite the fact that it is not a sovereign country. 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.
Proponents of the West Bank country-of-origin marking requirements claim it stems 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 is endorsed by the PLO and other anti-Israel groups encouraging an economic and cultural boycott of Israel. It has gained the support of radical leftwing groups here in the United States.
“Americans deserve to know if the Obama-era agenda of supporting anti-Israel radicals in subverting U.S. law is ongoing,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “These entrenched bureaucrats of the Deep State clearly require lawsuits to compel observance of FOIA law.”