Arab countries, with the notable exception of Egypt and Jordan, ploughed ahead Sunday, July 29, with plans to publish a blacklist of Israeli firms, and foreign companies doing business with the Jewish state.
The two-day meeting, the first international gathering of the Damascus-based Central Office for the Boycott of Israel since April 1993, studied plans drawn up for an economic blockade that could cost Israel an estimated three billion dollars per year.
"The boycott is a form of peaceful resistance, which conforms to international law since it is based on the right to self-defense and the freedom to chose one's business partners," said Ahmad Khazaa, head of the OBI.
Whilst the group's activities went into deep freeze at the start of the the Oslo peace process, the new meeting served as testament to the utter shambles of Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects since fighting erupted between the two sides late last September.
"We must reactivate the boycott in order to impose the economic blockade on the Zionist enemy and other foreign parties who support its tottering economy and its war efforts," said Muhammad Al-Ajami, Syria's delegate to the session.
Khazaa said the meeting's findings would be forwarded to the Arab League's head offices in Cairo, where it most probably will be reviewed by the committee of Arab League foreign ministers on the Palestinian uprising and the organization’s chief, Amr Mussa.
The OBI's working plan, of which AFP has obtained a copy, calls for a "reactivation of the boycott offices" in all 22 members of the Arab League, the publication every six months of a blacklist of Israeli firms and third-party companies having ties with the Jewish state.
The plan explains the boycott "is to prevent the penetration by Israel of the Arab nation" and to stamp out all transactions with companies figuring on the boycott list.
In addition to Syria and the Palestinian Authority, 11 countries sent representatives to the meeting ― Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Somalia.
Khazaa hailed the gathering even without Egypt and Jordan's participation, who signed peace treaties with Israel in 1979 and 1994 respectively. Khazaa said the Arab boycott of trade with Israel, in place since the Jewish state's creation a half-century ago, has cost Israel some $48 billion.
The reactivation of the OBI was discussed at the March 27-28 Arab summit in Amman upon the request of Syria, which is pushing for a tougher line in the face of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
However, efforts to hold an executive meeting of the OBI have failed, since it requires a two-thirds quorum of the chiefs of all Arab states' boycott offices. Sunday's meeting did not require a quorum since it was only a gathering of experts from Arab League states on reviving the boycott.
After the 1991 Gulf War and the launch of the Middle East peace process, most of the Arab countries yielded to US pressure and lifted the boycott of third party companies dealing with Israel, but not on Israeli companies.
The easing of the boycott allowed firms, such as soft drinks giant Coca-Cola and the automobile firm Ford Motor Company, to gain a foothold in Arab markets. "The boycott is the last Arab weapon in the confrontation," wrote Syria's ruling party Al-Baath newspaper on Sunday. ― (AFP, Damascus)
by Maher Chmaytelli
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )