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Disney Boycott

(Articles in Chronological Order)


Calls mount for Disney boycott

BBC News
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 month.

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 event.

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 on Wednesday.

He said Disney should be reminded that a number of countries have been boycotted in the past for recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

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.

Palestinian anger

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 ABC Television.

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.

Burger boycott

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.

Disney drops Jerusalem plan

BBC News
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 law.

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.

Arab media: Disney at 'red line'

BBC News
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 very costly".

'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 nations".

"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".

Disney boycott threat back on

BBC News
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 on Jerusalem.
Jerusalem's status is one of the trickiest unresolved issues in Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Reports that an exhibition opening at Disney World in Florida next month shows the city as the capital of Israel has led to widespread Muslim protests.

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.

'Arab blackmail'

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 capital.

"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.

Analysis: A Mickey Mouse affair?

BBC News
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 far-away Florida.

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 it intended.

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.

Boycott threats

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 sensibilities.

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 target.

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 places.

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 process.

Arab Disney boycott looms

BBC News
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 Abdel Meguid.

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 Israeli-sponsored display.

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 state.

"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.

Money matters

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.