In the aftermath of the Gulf War and the fall of the Soviet Moloch, the Arab boycott of Israel’s economy seemed on its way to extinction. Fifty years of boycott had cost the Jewish State a whopping $45 billion in lost trade and investment.
The boycott’s best-known feature was the prohibition of direct trade between Israel and the Arab countries; but this in fact was the least harmful of its provisions. The blackballing of companies that merely dealt with companies doing business with Israel enlarged the circle of hatred to immense proportions (Pepsi, among others, participated in the boycott).
For decades, the major trading nations of the world, including the US, did nothing to combat the boycott. Yet pressure to abandon the boycott eventually bore fruit, and business with Israel was gradually legitimized by Arab leaders, albeit tacitly.
Now this trend seems to be reversing and the global pressure to strangle Israel’s life is focusing on Western Europe, where anti-Jewish emotional blackmail is likely to be much more effective than in the US. There are many alarming signs.
A few days ago a UK supermarket chain banned Israeli settlement products, while a major Norwegian retailer suspended sale of Israeli Ahava products. It's an anti-Jewish policy that resists any rational exorcism, a war waged by a group of powerful countries against a fellow member of the United Nations.
If yesterday the orders came from Damascus, where the Arab League headquartered the boycott operations, today the boycott virus is spreading through Dutch pension funds, Scandinavian universities, UK labor unions, Italian food co-ops, German industrial companies, US churches and Belgian cultural institutions.
However, the raison d’etre is the same: It is not about the settlements or the checkpoints, but rather, about freezing Israel’s future. Caterpillar, Ahava, Soda Stream, Elbit, Veolia, Motorola… It’s impossible to list all the Israeli and foreign companies targeted by the boycott.
Obstacle to Mideast peace
No serious NGO, no Israeli ministry, no academy has yet calculated the impact of the boycott on the State of Israel. How many commercial deals and academic works have been severed and lost?
As in the past, when companies that did business with Arab countries were sometimes questioned as to whether they have Jews on their board of directors, today the boycott has anti-Semitic overtones. Will the European Union, many of whose prominent members either participated or acquiesced in the destruction of European Jewry 70 years ago, put a stop to this obscurantist conspiracy of the grandchildren of those Max Weinreich called “Hitler’s Professors” to expel the Israelites (again) from the family of nations?
This boycott blacklist not only violates international free trade, it is an obstacle to Mideast coexistence and constitutes the revival of racism. It’s time to ban once and for all a boycott reminiscent of the 1933 first official Nazi boycott of Jews, in which youth held posters in German and English urging the boycott: “Germans, defend yourselves against Jewish atrocity propaganda.”
The poster of the boycott lobby now says: “Europeans, defend yourselves against Israeli atrocity propaganda.” Where is the difference?
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism