This seems so bizarre I'm not sure I believe, but ... here it is!
Apparently, Americans are not permitted to ask companies whether or not their goods are produced in Israeli.. Supposedly has something to do w/
"prohibiting discrmination" against Israel, but... if (a) the law is for real and (b) that's the real reason for it, then.. well.. seems like a bit
of stretch to me.
Apparently, it must be *somewhat* for real, since the Commerce Department has press releases about it on their Web site:
Link to the original article in the Kansas City Star:
Link to Original Article
Apparently over $26 million in fines have been levied already b/c of this law..
Truth is stranger than fiction!
Company fined $6,000 for
not reporting customer's question
"Is any of this stuff made in Israel?"
by Helen & Harry Highwater, Unknown News June 27, 2003
A Missouri company has been fined $6,000 for not reporting a customer's question to the federal government. The question that's punished by law is:
Are any of these products made in Israel, or made of Israeli materials?
The Kansas City Star reports:
The anti-boycott provisions bar U.S. companies from providing information about their business relationships with Israel. They also require that
receipt of boycott requests be reported to the Bureau of Industry and Security, formerly known as the Bureau of Export Administration.
We ask: Why is this question forbidden? Why is any question forbidden?
It sounds more like the USSR than the USA, to punish people for asking a forbidden question, or for not immediately reporting to the government that
someone else asked a forbidden question.
Only a few years ago, during South Africa's apartheid era, it was considered the height of good moral backbone to ask whether a product came from
that country. Today, many Americans are asking such questions about products they suspect came from France, after the French government declined to
join "Operation Iraqi Freedom."
The newspaper's article doesn't make it clear whether these restrictions apply only to US companies selling stuff outside the US, or whether the law
applies to everyone. Either way, it's reprehensible.
Editor's note: Here's what the US Office of Antiboycott Compliance says: "The antiboycott provisions of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR)
apply to all "U.S. persons," defined to include individuals and companies located in the United States and their foreign affiliates. ..."
And here's a press release from the US Department of Commerce: "Commerce Under Secretary for Industry and Security Kenneth I. Juster today
reiterated to U.S. companies that the Department will vigorously enforce its regulations prohibiting U.S. persons from taking any action in support of
foreign government boycotts against Israel. ..."
If K-Mart is having a sale on cheap plastic chess sets and we ask the clerk whether the board or pieces were made in Israel, is the clerk allowed to
answer? Must the store promptly file a form with the Bureau of Industry and Security reporting that we asked?
Well, we'll be asking the forbidden question in every store we enter. Not because we're boycotting Israel — we're not. Heck, if we were boycotting
products from countries whose policies are abhorrent, we'd start by boycotting anything marked "made in USA."
We'll be asking the forbidden question because we believe in freedom. In a free society, the government doesn't tell people what questions they can
ask, and what questions they can't, and what questions must be promptly reported to the authorities.
We had heard of this law before — banning people from even asking about boycotting Israeli products — but we had foolishly assumed it wasn't often
According to the article, though, "more than $26 million in fines" have been levied for violations of this law, suggesting that enforcement of the
Forbidden Question Law is not at all uncommon. The fine in this case was $6,000, so assuming that's average and doing the math, more than 4,000
Americans or American companies have been fined — for asking the forbidden question, or failure to report that someone else asked the forbidden