U.S. manufacturers warned a Senate subcommittee yesterday that passage of legislation aimed at outlawing participation by American companies in the Arab boycott of Israel would result in the loss of American jobs.
George A. Helland, president of the Petroleum Equipment Suppliers Association based in Houston, told the subcommittee, "We anticipate the loss of 110,500 jobs per year over the coming five years due to this legislation, and the loss of over $1.3 billion in potential wages."
The Senate Banking subcommittee also heard testimony from representatives of various Jewish organizations. They urged swift passage of the strongest possible legislation to make it a crime for U.S. firms to participate in Arab boycotts.
Sen. William Proxmire (D-Wis.), co-sponsor of one of two antiboycott measures being considered, voiced skepticism at the business representatives' dire predictions.
If passage of legislation means some loss of jobs and income, he told the packed hearing, "I think we should make that sacrifice."
Last year, an antiboycott bill sponsored by Sen. Adlai E. Stevenson (D-Ill.) passed the Senate. But the Ford administration blocked it from going to a conference committee to work out differences with a House version.
Stevenson's bill is again being considered. But this year, as a result of urging by Jewish groups, Sens. Proxmire and Harrison A. Williams Jr. (D-N.J.) have cosponsored a bill that is tougher than the Stevenson version.
The bills would provide for fines of $20,000 and imprisonment of one year for the first violation, increasing to five years for a second violation.
Both bills would forbid U.S. companies from participating in secondary boycotts of other American companies that have been blacklisted by the Arabs. Also, companies could not agree not to do business with Israel in order to gain business in Arab countries.
More than 1,500 American companies are included on a blacklist maintained by the League of Arab States. The boycott blacklist includes many companies doing business with Israel as well some owned by Jews or employing Jews. The Arabs do not trade with blacklisted companies and have pressured other companies to do the same.
The main difference between the bills is that Stevenson's would permit U.S. companies trading with Arab countries to certify that the products being exported were not produced in whole or in part in Israel. The Proxmire-Williams bill would prohibit such certificates.
Most of the business representatives sought in their testimony to draw a fine line between discrimination on the basis of race, creed, national origin or sex, and the boycott instituted by the Arabs.
All echoed the sentiments of Charles W. Stewart, president of the Machinery and Allied Products Institute in Washington, who said that troublesome provisions of business contracts with the Arabs should be "negotiated out" rather than outlawed.
But Williams chided Stewart and the others for being unnecessarily nervous about retribution from the Arabs. "You rugged men of business are jumping at shadows," he said.