(Articles in Chronological Order)
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mount for Disney boycott
August 6, 1999
The United Arab Emirates has threatened to ban all products of
the US entertainment company, Walt Disney, if it goes ahead with
an exhibition depicting Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
At the same time, a group of leading Palestinian intellectuals
issued its own call for a boycott if Disney did not allow a committee
to inspect the exhibition before it opens in Florida later this
The Arab League is also supporting efforts to allow Islamic groups
to check the Israeli stand.
The exhibition, called Millennium Village, plans to feature the
culture of 40 nations in what Disney insists is a non-political
But the UAE's Minister of Information and Culture, Sheikh Abdullah
bin al-Nahyan, said that despite assurances by the entertainment
giant, the matter was still unresolved.
"We will boycott all Walt Disney products and all its affiliates
if Disney does not agree to our request to send a committee to see
the exhibit before it opens. This is a very sensitive issue and
we cannot be mere onlookers," Sheikh Abdullah al-Nahyan said
He said Disney should be reminded that a number of countries have
been boycotted in the past for recognising Jerusalem as the capital
A BBC correspondent in the Middle East says a boycott could cost
the US company dearly, as its products earn an estimated $100m a
year in the Middle East.
On Wednesday, a group of leading Palestinian intellectuals lent
its voice to the dispute and threatened to call for a boycott of
all Disney products and recreation centres and Disney subsidiary
The group, called Miftah - the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion
of Global Dialogue and Democracy - counts a number of leading Palestinian
intellectuals and human rights activists among its board of trustees,
including academic Edward Said.
"The exhibit expresses distortions and biased facts that serve
neither the interest of Jerusalem nor of achieving a just peace
in the Middle East," the group said in a statement.
Two weeks ago, fast food giant Burger King announced that it was
closing a controversial franchise outlet in the Israeli occupied
West Bank, after facing mounting calls for a worldwide boycott by
Arab and Muslim groups.
The restaurant sparked outrage among American Arab and American
Muslim groups, who argued the restaurant amounted to support for
the Israeli occupation. The settlement was built on disputed land
occupied by the Israelis after the 1967 war.
The status of Jerusalem has long been a stumbling block in the
Middle East peace process, as both sides claim it as their capital.
Israel describes the city as its "eternal and indivisible
capital" but it is not recognised internationally as the capital
of the Jewish state. The east side of the city was captured and
annexed by Israel in contravention of international law.
drops Jerusalem plan
September 18, 1999
The Walt Disney entertainment organisation has moved to avert a
potential Arab boycott by announcing a proposed theme park in Florida
will not show Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
There had been angry protests by Arab and other Muslim countries
after reports that Disney had intended to refer to Jerusalem as
the country's political capital as part of a millennium exhibit
celebrating Israel's culture and history.
A Disney spokesman refused to say whether the decision was the
result of a meeting between the company president Al Weiss and Arab
leaders earlier this week.
The decision is likely to infuriate Israel, which has contributed
$1.8m dollars towards the Israel pavilion at Disney's Epcot Park
in central Florida.
Israeli politicians, from Prime Minister Ehud Barak, to Likud leader,
Ariel Sharon, have denounced the threat of a boycott.
The status of Jerualem is one of the thorniest issues in the Middle
East peace process.
Israel regards Jerusalem as its eternal and indivisible capital
although it is not recognised internationally as such. The Arab
world wants the mainly Muslim eastern half of the city to be the
capital of a future Palestinian state - the east side of the city
was captured and annexed by Israel in contravention of international
Disney came under very strong pressure to make sure the exhibit
did not portray Jerusalem as the political capital of Israel.
Earlier this week, a member of the Saudi royal family and major
shareholder in the EuroDisney operation in France, Prince Al Walid
bin Talal, said he had intervened personally with the Disney chairman,
Michael Eisner, urging him to change the theme of the exhibition.
Arab Americans threatened to boycott Disney's theme parks, films,
shops and products and leading Shia cleric in Beirut attacked Disney
as a zionist Jewish firm during his Friday sermon.
But Israeli Foreign Minister, David Levy, said the country had
an agreement with Disney. The pavilion was supposed to present Jerusalem
in all its glory, in all its history, he said.
media: Disney at 'red line'
September 20, 1999
The row between the Arab League and the Walt
Disney Company over an exhibit showing Jerusalem as the capital
of Israel is being reflected in the regional media.
The Saudi newspaper Al-Jazirah criticises Disney for what it says
is a "contribution towards Israel's attempt to prejudice the
Arab nature of Jerusalem and its Islamic identity".
Disney, it says, "has reached the red line".
"The company has issued assurances that the Israeli stand
in the exhibition is not directed towards consecrating Israel's
view of Jerusalem. But the welcome by the Israeli Foreign Ministry
affirms the existence of a hidden intention to prejudice the status
of Jerusalem in the service of Israel's purposes and goals to dominate
and blot out the identity of the holy town," al-Jazirah argues.
A statement issued by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's office
bureau said attempts to harm Israel's status and that of Jerusalem
as Israel's united capital had failed in the past and would continue
to fail in future.
Al-Jazirah calls on the company to "take note of the messages
coming out of the Arab world", adding that "any attempt
to infringe or cast doubt on the identity of Jerusalem would be
'We will never give up al-Quds'
The Gulf-based Khaleej Times says some Arab states are "close
to boycotting Disney", and quotes one Arab official as saying
Arab League representatives would meet in New York on Friday to
discuss how to react to "Disney's unacceptable and absurd response"
to Arab objections.
The Jerusalem-based Al-Quds - which supports Yasser Arafat's Palestinian
National Authority (PNA) - says the latest development is proof
that "the Israeli government's peace calls completely differ
from what is taking place on the ground and what the Barak government
is trying to impose on the Palestinian people and the Arab and Islamic
"The Jerusalem issue is one of the major subjects in the final
status negotiations; a solution will be found in line with the resolutions
of international legitimacy and the rules and principles of the
peace process - including Security Council resolutions 242 and 338
and the principle of land for peace," the paper says.
Using the same expression as al-Jazirah, al-Quds comments that
"Jerusalem is considered a red line not only by the Palestinian
people, but also by Arab and Islamic nations."
More criticism of Disney comes from Iran, where the Tehran Times
quotes one political analyst as saying "we will never give
al-Quds (Jerusalem) to the Zionists, since they occupied it against
the will of the Muslims".
boycott threat back on
September 21, 1999
Arab League Secretary-General Esmat Abdel Meguid says he will ask
member states to "reconsider" their relations with the
American Disney corporation in the continuing row over a exhibit
Jerusalem's status is one of the trickiest unresolved issues in
Reports that an exhibition opening at Disney World in Florida next
month shows the city as the capital of Israel has led to widespread
It appeared the row had been resolved last week after the intervention
of Prince Al Walid bin Talal, a member of the Saudi royal family
and major shareholder in the EuroDisney operation in France.
But on Saturday, Israel claimed victory in the row over the exhibition.
A statement from the foreign ministry said: "Presenting Jerusalem
as the central element in Israel's exhibit ... speaks for itself.
There is not clearer or stronger statement than that."
Israel's ambassador to the United States said there would be no
changes to the exhibition.
Zalman Shoval told Israeli military radio that Disney had finally
"understood that it was better not to give in to Arab blackmail."
In response, the Arab league secretary general said he would ask
Arab foreign ministers meeting in New York next Friday on the sidelines
of the UN general assembly to reconsider their relations with Disney.
"The American firm has not changed its position concerning
the Israeli exhibit. Israel is trying to dupe the Arabs and we will
not accept that," he said.
In a statement on Friday, Disney said the exhibit would explore
the history of Jerusalem but would not depict the city as Isael's
"We are an entertainment company and we do not take (ideological)
positions," the company said.
Millions at stake
A boycott of Disney products might cost the company hundreds of
millions of dollars in lost revenues.
Arab Americans have threatened to boycott Disney's theme parks,
films, shops and products.
The exhibition, called Millennium Village, plans to feature the
culture of 40 nations in what Disney says is a non-political event.
The 800 square-metre Israel Pavilion will showcase the nation's
agricultural, energy and technology industries.
A feature of the pavilion is a huge model of Jerusalem's Old City,
which is located in east Jerusalem.
Israel regards Jerusalem as its "eternal and indivisible capital"
although it is not recognised internationally as such.
The Arab world wants the mainly-Muslim eastern half of the city
to be the capital of a future Palestinian state - the east side
of the city was captured and annexed by Israel in contravention
of international law.
A Mickey Mouse affair?
By News Online's Martin Asser
September 23, 1999
Few events in recent years have galvanised Arab governments into
action as much as Israel's millennium exhibit in a theme park in
Disney's Millennium Village, which will open on 1 October, features
displays by a number of countries - in the words of the hype - "to
highlight those things that bind humanity".
Disney has probably succeeded in doing this, but not in the way
Israel's exhibit apparently seeks to reinforce the idea of Jerusalem
as Israel's "eternal, undivided" capital and its central
role in Jewish life.
Arab hackles rose and the first Arab murmurings of an official
boycott came from the United Arab Emirates early in September.
Jerusalem's east side was captured by Israel in June 1967, during
the so-called Six-Day War.
The Jewish state has been in illegal occupation of this part of
the city since then. It even annexed its eastern suburbs, something
it has never attempted in the other occupied lands.
Arab diplomats expressed unease that Israel was hoping to further
its territorial plans at this non-political event - one in which
both Saudi Arabia and Morocco were participants.
The Disney Company almost succeeded in heading off the crisis,
announcing on 18 September that the display "would not show
Jerusalem as Israel's capital".
But by this time even the Arab League in full voice against Disney.
The League had emerged successful from campaign against Burger King,
for opening a restaurant in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
The burger giant said it had been misled by its Israeli partners
and tore up the contract, against a chorus of Israeli criticism.
Retailers and broadcasters of Disney material have also taken up
the cause. Consumers have followed suit. The company could lose
hundreds of millions of dollars-worth of business in the region.
After years of wide-ranging and ineffectual "anti-Zionist"
boycotting, it looks like the Arab world has finally woken up to
the tactic of targeting and hitting hard offenders of Arab political
Soft and furry target
A lone voice of Arab dissent has come from Prince Walid Bin Talal,
the Saudi billionaire and substantial Disney shareholder.
One of his advisors has accused Arab states of "trying to
be smart" with Disney, because they are unwilling or unable
to mess with the real enemy.
Looked at in this way, it does seem as though the Arab League,
after years of disagreement and impotence, has rounded on a soft
After all, the cynics point out, Yasser Arafat himself has only
just resumed final status talks which could end up legitimising
Israel's illegal occupation of most of the city, in return for another
symbolic capital close to, perhaps linked with, the Muslim holy
Furthermore, when Prime Minister Ehud Barak announced he did not
think any of 3.5 million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to
return to their homes "under any circumstances", the Arab
leaderships stayed silent.
In other words, the battles of Burger King and Mickey Mouse show
that Arab leaders can flex their financial muscles, but not yet
turn the tables on what many Arab citizens see as an unjust peace
Disney boycott looms
September 24, 1999
Arab foreign ministers are preparing for a meeting in New York
to discuss a possible boycott of the Walt Disney entertainment company.
Governments, retailers and consumers across the Arab world have
already registered their anger at Disney for allowing the Israelis
to portray Jerusalem as the country's capital at its millennium
show in Florida.
The foreign ministers from the 22 member states of the Arab League
will meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
The meeting will be chaired by Arab League Secretary-General Esmat
On Wednesday, the league's information committee recommended that
two Arab pavillions at the Epcot exhibition should be used to promote
Jerusalem as an Arab city.
The committee expressed "support for the Arab initiatives
adopted to deal with Walt Disney's planned exhibit.
Letters of protest
The Palestinian Authority called for a mail campaign against the
Its ministry of information asked "all Muslim and Christian
organisations wishing to show solidarity with the cause of the Palestinian
people" to protest with e-mails or letters.
The suggested text reads: "I ask the Walt Disney Corporation
to stop the broadcast of passages in the Israeli pavilion which
portray the Arab city of Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish
"Stop the features and displays in the Israeli pavilion which
distort teachers from Arab civilisation - Christian and Muslim."
Israel captured the eastern part of the city in 1967 and has been
in occupation of it in defiance of international law ever since.
Disney, which will open its Millennium Celebration at the Epcot
centre on 1 October, said last week that the Israeli exhibit would
not call Jerusalem Israel's capital.
But critics of the display - who include the Arab League Secretary-General
- say the exhibit title may have changed, but the essential message
of Israeli exclusivity in Jerusalem remains the same.
The Saudi Government said the kingdom would be the first to implement
any decision adopted by the Arab League.
The Disney franchise holder in Qatar has said he might close down
his store, while Arab satellite TV providers are on stand-by to
pull the plug on Disney's Arabic-dubbed channel.
Officially, Israel considers Jerusalem its "eternal, undivided"
capital, although no other country recognises it as such.
Even the United States maintains its embassy in Tel Aviv, although
pro-Israel politicians have lobbied for full US recognition of Jerusalem
as the Israeli capital.
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