Boycott committee calls for tighter measures against Israel

Less than two-thirds of Arab states attended talks on a boycott that has largely run out of steam.

israel boycott 298.88 (photo credit: Associated Press [file])
israel boycott 298.88
(photo credit: Associated Press [file])
An Arab League committee on Monday called for greater efforts to block trade with Israel, but fewer than two-thirds of the Arab states attended the talks on a boycott that has largely run out of steam. Arab states "need to tighten the boycott as a way to express our rejection of aggression, and to force Israel to implement UN resolutions," said the boycott office's commissioner general, Mohammed al-Tayyeb Bouslaa of Tunisia, referring to Security Council resolutions that call on Israel to withdraw from land captured in the Middle East wars of 1967 and 1973. Fourteen of the League's 22 nations were represented at the meeting, a four-day event that is held twice a year at the boycott office's headquarters in Damascus. Among the absentees were Egypt and Jordan, which have signed peace treaties with Israel; Mauritania, which has diplomatic relations with Israel; Bahrain and Oman. The League set up the boycott office in 1951 to put pressure on foreign companies that do business with Israel, trying to force them to choose between trading with the Jewish state and the much larger Arab market. In its heyday, the Damascus headquarters blacklisted 8,500 foreign companies for buying products from Israeli companies, stopping in Haifa port, having a branch in Israel, or any number of moves from which Israel could benefit economically. The Office of the Arab Boycott went even further, blacklisting companies doing business with blacklisted companies. Today, however, the OAB can't even stop its own members from doing direct business with Israel. The combination of US anti-boycott legislation, the decline of the power of oil, peace deals between Israel and its neighbors, and pressure by the world's only superpower have dulled the power and reach of the boycott. Now, even the most hard-line Arab countries are officially dropping the primary level of the boycott in order to join trade organizations and agreements. However, the Arab League has been trying to resuscitate the boycott since the Palestinian uprising was revived in 2000.