Boycott Affecting US,
Though its Cause is Not Understood
By Barbara Ferguson
9 July 2002
WASHINGTON: The Arab boycott is reverberating throughout the United
States, but the reason for the boycott US sympathy and support
to Israel appears to continue to be ignored.
The terrorism attacks of Sept. 11 also deeply effected US-Arab
tourism, education and trade, which once strengthened ties between
the US and the Arab world, despite quarrels over US support for
Israel and other foreign affair disputes.
The Saudis, for example, used to flock to Disney World on Saudi
Arabia Airlines weekly flights from Jeddah to Orlando. Now
demand has evaporated and the flights have been canceled.
Visa applications to the US have also fallen, especially after stringent
background checks that take up to three weeks were introduced for
visa applicants from certain Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia.
Even without scrapping over US visas, the Arab-US boycott has taken
a significant toll. Trade between the United States and Arab counties
is said to be down by at least 25 percent since last year.
Economists say it is hard to determine accurately how much
of the decline can be attributed to such international factors as
exchange rates and the price of oil, but there is extensive anecdotal
evidence that the boycott has taken a toll, wrote Howard Schneider
in yesterdays Washington Post.
The Post says the boycott has cost soft drink companies and
fast food franchises 40 percent or more of their business in the
Arab world, and left some companies, including Procter & Gamble,
with serious branding problems.
The company lost a reported 60 percent of its sales of Ariel detergent
because its name is the same as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel
Coke and Pepsi are doing their best to overcome the boycott. Both
launched aggressive marketing campaigns during the World Cup to
regain their markets, and the effort is reported to be making headway.
American universities are also hoping that Arab enrollment would
be up this fall, but hopes appear to be falling flat. No one
has registered, said Sohair Saad, educational information
director at the Washington-based training group Amideast. Students,
she said, are expressing less and less interest in studying in the
United States, and many are said to turning their sites to educational
opportunities in Canada.
Were scared of them, they are scared of us, Saad
says. This is very unfortunate.
Attempts are being made to counteract the damage. The State Department
is working to change the US image in the Arab world, and has recently
launched a new Arabic-language pop radio station.
In an effort to restore relations business and travel between the
two countries, the US Embassy in Riyadh recently launched a Go-2-USA
Alas, despite genuine efforts to bridge the gap, is easy to view
these attempts as mere band-aids that cannot heal the real problem:
Americans continuing one-sided support for Israel.
The reality is that there is going to be an economic effect
by limiting trade, academic and other ties that thrived before Sept.
11, said Sen. Bob Graham, D-Florida, but it is a cost which he said
Americans accepted in return for better security.