In the current peace negotiations between the Arab states and Israel there is much emphasis on Israel's yielding land for peace and much pressure on Israel to make "accommodations for the peace." No such gestures are ever being requested from the Arabs. One important matter, the Arab boycott of Israel, is never even being discussed.
What are the facts?
The background of the boycott. The Arab states try to make the world believe that their hostility toward Israel is based on Israel's "occupation" of what they like to describe as "Arab lands," specifically the territories of Judea/Samaria, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. Those territories came under Israeli administration as a result of the 1967 Six-Day War. But the Arabs' desire to destroy Israel goes back to before the birth of the nation. The "Covenant" of the PLO, which clearly expresses that aim, was formulated in 1964, three years before that war. And the Arab boycott of Israel goes back even further to 1946, two years before the state of Israel even existed. It is out-and-out economic warfare, one of the steps in the planned destruction of Israel. Its purpose is to prevent not only the Arab and Muslim states, but all of the world from trading with Israel and thus to strangle it economically.
How the boycott works. The boycott works on several levels. The primary boycott prohibits Arab people and Arab states to do any business buying, selling, investing with and in Israel. The secondary boycott attempts to prevent businesses anywhere in the world from any economic activity with Israel and threatening them with economic retaliation if they do not conform. It is a very potent weapon, because the large Arab market and the enormous oil wealth make it most unattractive to get into the bad graces of the Arabs. Little consideration is given to the fact that the boycott is a gross violation of international law. The United States is the one shining exception to the almost universal acceptance of this economic blackmail. In the U.S., submission to the Arab boycott demands is illegal; companies complying with it are subject to heavy fines.
There is also the tertiary boycott that punishes firms that deal with blacklisted businesses. And perhaps the most damaging aspect is the so-called "voluntary boycott," by which companies, and in some cases entire countries, refrain pre-emptively from doing business with Israel in order to avoid retaliation by the Arabs. The boycott also applies to international shipping, aviation and tourism. Most ships and airplanes calling on Israel are barred from Arab ports; airplanes enroute to and from Israel cannot over-fly Arab countries. Israelis or any travelers with Israeli visas in their passports may not enter most Arab countries.
The Arab Boycott Office maintains a blacklist, which at last count included over 6,300 entries in 96 countries. In the United States alone, over 12,000 firms each year receive requests from Arab firms for boycott compliance. In Europe and Asia, where, in contrast to the United States, boycott compliance is usually legal, the numbers are probably much higher.
The cost of the boycott to Israel. The primary damage of the boycott to the Israeli economy is that it prevents or considerably hampers investments in the country. That loss is estimated to be on the order of $500 to $600 million per year. The loss of potential trade with the Arab countries alone is on the order of over $500 million per year. It is estimated that because of the boycott, Israel's commercial exports are at least 10% less than they would otherwise be a loss of about $1.2 billion per year. Another parameter is the ratio of exports by foreign or multinational companies to total exports. In a small country such as Belgium, for instance, that ratio is 35%. In Ireland it's 42%. Since owning a factory or having an investment in Israel is a violation of the boycott, Israel's ratio, despite the high quality of its goods, is only 1%!
The Arab boycott is undisguised economic warfare against Israel. The boycott is totally unrelated to any territorial dispute the Arabs may have with Israel, since the boycott started over twenty years before any such territories came under Israeli administration. Its purpose is the strangulation of Israel to achieve by economic means what the Arabs, despite many tries, have been unable to achieve by military means. But the greatest losers of the boycott may well be the Arabs themselves. Blinded by their boundless hatred of Israel and by their insistence on the boycott, they have prevented the Middle East from becoming an area of growth and prosperity exceeding even the Asian Pacific Rim countries. Rescinding the almost 50-year old boycott would be an encouraging signal to the world and to the Israeli public. Their not bringing even such a gesture does give a clue that the intentions of the Arabs are not peaceful and that Israel is justified in proceeding with greatest caution in any negotiations.
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Gerardo Joffe, President