Treasury Fingers Countries Enforcing the Arab League Boycott of Israel

2017/10/16

Editorial By: John Black

Note:  I love this list.  It gives me a chance to say tertiary.   As my career winds down its things like this that I will miss.

N.B.:  I don’t remember ever seeing anybody write an editorial piece about Treasury publishing this list, probably for good reason.  If I don’t do this now, nobody ever will. 

Once again the Treasury Department has published its list of countries that more or less enforce certain aspects of the Arab League Boycott of Israel. Or, as Treasury clearly states, they are countries “which may require participation in, or cooperation with, an international boycott (within the meaning of section 999(b)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986).”

You see, way back whenever, the US Congress decided it doesn’t like US persons cooperating with the secondary and tertiary elements of the Arab Boycott of Israel so it told the Treasury Department to put something in the tax code so that US person who illegally cooperate can’t claim foreign tax credits. Congress also told the Commerce Department to put something in its export control regulations so the Commerce rules make such cooperation illegal without telling anybody which countries it applies to.

You see, Congress and the US Government don’t want to have actual rules that say Arab League Boycott of Israel to make it clear that US person can’t cooperate with the unmentionable boycott on the unmentionable close ally of the United States.  Because, what the wizards* in Washington figured out is, if they don’t write little known rules that ban cooperation with the “Arab Boycott of Israel,” nobody will know that US foreign policy in many ways has long favored Israel over the Arab League.

(*Sorry, I did not mean to disparage indirectly the Washington Wizards NBA basketball team but this raises an important issue.  Years ago the Washington Bullets NBA team decided to change their name to the Washington Wizards. I always knew that they dropped the Bullets name to reduce violent crime in the capital city (how is that working?)  But, after wondering for years why the Washington team chose “Wizards,” I just now realized it is because most of the people in Congress and the US Government are wizards—either, if you are old like me, the type of wizards who wear pointy hats and robes with stars on them and have a magic wand or, if you are not old, those in Harry Potter movies; or, if you ask Congress, the type of wizards who are generally highly adept at what they do.  Now that’s another life knowledge breakthrough thanks to export regs.)

Treasury noted that this list is “based on currently available information,” which, I personally found to be a great relief because if the list had been based on only information available prior to 1975, it would have looked quite different.  And who knows what the list would have looked like if it were based on information that is not currently available—We could have ended up with Mexico and China on the list, seriously.

FYI, this paragraph contains information that is important:  Treasury listed these countries:

  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Yemen

The Commerce Department traditionally does not publish a similar list of countries for its antiboycott rules in Part 760 of the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”).  EAR 760 prohibits a US person from cooperating with (or agreeing to do so) the secondary and tertiary elements of the Arab League boycott of Israel.  Instead of ever mentioning the Arab League or Israel, Commerce and the EAR brandish the terms “boycotting countries” and “boycotted countries” to adeptly hide the US pro-Israel foreign policy bias.

A reasonable person might assume that since the Commerce and Treasury rules have the same objective and are implemented by the same US Government, the Commerce Department considers its rules are applicable to the same countries as Treasury.

Editorial Note: I am not saying that the EAR rules are limited to the list of countries Treasury published. I am merely pointing out what a reasonable person might assume.

Useful Information:  In any event, when you do a risk based assessment of your EAR compliance issues and, based on that, decide how to allocate your limited compliance resources, it may be cost-effective to focus your EAR antiboycott rules compliance on the countries on the Treasury list.  And while you are doing risk assessments and deciding how to cost-effectively allocate your limited resources for EAR compliance, you may decide to allocate only a small portion of your total EAR compliance resources to compliance with the EAR antiboycott rules.  That is because antiboycott EAR fines are frequently well under $100k.  I recommend you allocate most of your EAR compliance resources to focus on compliance with the standard EAR export controls where it is not unusual for Commerce (along with OFAC) to impose fines of hundreds of millions of dollars, or in the case of ZTE, $1 billion and membership on an export denial list.

Federal Register: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-08-02/pdf/2017-16290.pdf

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