US Law: It Is Illegal To Boycott Israel?

If you are a resident of the United States of America, you should be aware that it is literally illegal to boycott Israel. I have never been in favour of or against a boycott against said country but it is definitely interesting to note that it is not even legal to do it. I had no idea that such a law even existed and has been here for several decades. I wonder when was the last time this was actually used and/or how often it is enforced.

According to the Bureau of Industry and Security and the Antiboycott Compliance law:

The Bureau is charged with administering and enforcing the Antiboycott Laws under the Export Administration Act. Those laws discourage, and in some circumstances, prohibit U.S. companies from furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel sponsored by the Arab League, and certain Moslem countries, including complying with certain requests for information designed to verify compliance with the boycott.

The objective of the law may seem reasonable enough that:

The antiboycott laws were adopted to encourage, and in specified cases, require U.S. firms to refuse to participate in foreign boycotts that the United States does not sanction. They have the effect of preventing U.S. firms from being used to implement foreign policies of other nations which run counter to U.S. policy.

So who is required to follow this law?

The antiboycott provisions of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) apply to the activities of U.S. persons in the interstate or foreign commerce of the United States. The term “U.S. person” includes all individuals, corporations and unincorporated associations resident in the United States, including the permanent domestic affiliates of foreign concerns.

So what happens to you if actually do decide to boycott?

The penalties imposed for each “knowing” violation can be a fine of up to $50,000 or five times the value of the exports involved, whichever is greater, and imprisonment of up to five years.