debate merits of Arab boycott
By Ibtisam Awadat,
Star Staff Writer
April 20, 2002
The only weapon left to them to express anger
and frustration is an economic weapon: Boycott of US and Israeli
The ongoing Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians have tacit
US support, leaving peoples of the Arab and Islamic world feeling
helpless over the silence of the political system, particularly
their own. The only weapon left to them to express anger and frustration
is an economic weapon: Boycott of US and Israeli products. This
popular tool is gaining speed on the ground but has generated controversy
amongst politicians who will field the complaints and economic observers
who fear it is a step toward greater economic hardship for many
Some analysts suggest the enormous US and Israeli economies will
not be affected by an Arab boycott, and thus, this option should
be abandoned as it will only cause harm locally. Supporters say
the boycott is not meant as an economic weapon to harm US and Israeli
economies so much as a political message to the international community
from the outraged Arab and Muslim world, condemning the double standards
Economic analyst Dr Abdallah Al Malki tackled the historic Arab
boycott of Israel in a recent article in the Arabic daily Ad-Dustour,
saying one of the consequences of the Arab-Israeli peace agreements,
including the Oslo Peace Accord, was the hasty decision to give
up the Arab boycott of Israel.
"We should have kept the 'boycott' weapon to use as one of
our political pressure cards until the peace process reached an
end," Al Malki wrote. Today with the Israeli incursion into
Palestinian territories the peace process hasn't been accomplished,
and Israel has seen tremendous economic gain from its relations
with the Arab world-gains which have translated into Israeli weapons
and war machines on the ground being used against Palestinians.
The question is 'can Arabs revive the US and Israeli boycott once
again?'. "The most dangerous outcome of Oslo Peace Accord was
that Arabs, at least part of them, thought the Arab-Israeli conflict
was limited to Palestinian-Israeli strife," says Al Malki.
He believes the Arab economic boycott should remain as one of an
arsenal of effective economic weapons. Arabs will always need some
political and economic weapon in their struggle against Israeli
occupation. It stands to be long-term conflict. New weapons should
be developed, new approaches considered, and the boycott reinstated.
The impact of a boycott is not simply economic. It also has moral,
cultural and psychological effects on Arab people themselves. "The
Arabs who discovered peace was never an Israeli demand should remain
alert to efforts to revive the economic boycott," Al Malki
Dr Ibrahim Badran-in an article entitled 'Economic Boycott'-states
boycotts are an expression of people's protest. Badran tackled the
issue of an Arab boycott of US products explaining how many businessmen
and politicians may question the benefit behind the boycott of an
enormous economy like America but "they [should not] imagine
this boycott should either devastate the US economy or else be useless,"
Badran wrote. Many other observers and politicians, Badran added,
note an Arab boycott is the responsibility of Arab Governments,
not the people. The US economy is estimated at 10 trillion dollars
compared to Arab economies operating at 800 billion dollars. "Others
believe the US economy is so huge the Arab boycott will be worthless,
however, we can't measure political issues only with figures and
statistics," Badran noted.
Since Arab political solutions appear unable to accomplish any
tangible changes to halt Israeli atrocities, the popular stance
becomes very significant. "The popular boycott of US products
is one democratic mechanism that complies with international conventions,
human rights and international legitimacy," Badran stated.
Many nations practiced economic boycott against their occupiers
as a message of protest. India practiced it in the era of Mahatma
Gandhi against the British rule.
In addition, an economic boycott attracts the attention of decision
makers in civil society, forcing institutions and businesses that
have the power to make changes to make them, Badran noted. The Arab
world should teach their children that anger and protest has to
be expressed through practical, pragmatic and democratic means.
"The political, cultural and popular leading figures should
direct the boycotting campaign of US and Israeli products and services,"
Badran stated. The Americans and Israelis must realize that Arabs
are not only figures that can be manipulated to their desires,"