The executive office for the Arab boycott of Israel met Monday October 8 for the first time since 1993 to reactivate an embargo in response to the Jewish state's attacks on the Palestinians.
Delegates from 19 Arab League members, in the absence of Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania, attended the central Office for the Boycott of Israel (OBI) meeting in the Syrian capital due to last until Thursday.
"When Israel does not respect accords signed (with the Palestinians), it is necessary to reactivate the boycott as an instrument of legitimate pressure," Arab League deputy secretary general Said Kamal said at the opening session.
Syria's Ahmad Khazaa, commissioner general of the Damascus-based OBI, said "the boycott is possibly the most efficient and least expensive means of self-defense." "The enemy is seeking to take advantage of the September 11 attacks on the United States, which have been denounced by the Arab countries, to intensify its aggression against the Palestinians," he also charged.
The OBI executive office last held a full meeting eight years ago, mainly due to the 1991 launch of the Arab-Israeli peace process. Egypt and Jordan were not taking part because of the peace treaties they have signed with Israel, while Mauritania refrains from attending the OBI as it maintains diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.
A delegate, asking not to be identified, told AFP that the OBI's first target was Israeli companies selling their products in Arab markets via third countries.
"There is no consensus on the indirect boycott" against companies from third countries dealing with Israel," he explained. "This issue will be addressed at the end." The boycott could cost Israel around $3 billion a year in lost earnings, according to the OBI, which estimates the Jewish state's total losses due to the boycott over the past half century at $48 billion.
Israeli economists, however, assessed in 1991 that the Jewish state had lost $400 million due to the boycott. The Arab League set up the OBI on May 19, 1951. The executive office's main job is to update every six months a "blacklist" of Israeli companies (direct boycott) or foreign companies dealing with Israel (indirect boycott). After the 1991 Gulf War and launch of the Middle East peace process, most Arab states bowed to US pressure and lifted the indirect boycott. — (AFP, Damascus)
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