The Economic Costs Of Boycotting Israel: An Arab Perspective » ADL Blogs
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March 10, 2016 2

The Economic Costs Of Boycotting Israel: An Arab Perspective

Anti-Israel activists have often argued that the goal of the Boy­cott, Divest and Sanc­tion (BDS) cam­paign is to encour­age Israelis to think crit­i­cally about the “eco­nomic cost of the Occu­pa­tion,” but a recent arti­cle pub­lished by Al-Hayat, one of the lead­ing daily pan-Arab news­pa­pers, may be chal­leng­ing them to con­sider think­ing about the costs some Arabs endure as a result of calls to resist nor­mal rela­tions with Israel.al hayat

“Resist­ing Nor­mal­iza­tion [with Israel] in Jor­dan adds eco­nomic losses to the defeat” by Jor­dan­ian jour­nal­ist Ibrahim Gharaiba, which appeared on the inter­na­tional edi­tion of Al-Hayat on March 7, offers a real­is­tic pic­ture of the real price Jor­da­ni­ans are pay­ing as a result of calls to boy­cott Israel.

Accord­ing to Gharaiba, the Israel–Jordan peace treaty, known as Wadi Araba, could have trans­formed the sta­tus of war between the two coun­ties into great eco­nomic and devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties for Jor­dan. “Israel, which its sta­tus has changed into a non-enemy coun­try is located at the same geo­graphic region as Jor­dan, and it has an advanced econ­omy which achieves very high lev­els of human development.”

This Israeli suc­cess story, accord­ing to the arti­cle, is focused around areas with strate­gic impor­tance for Jor­dan, such as water desali­na­tion and agriculture.

“Jor­dan, which suf­fered a mil­i­tary defeated in 1967 and regional crises cre­at­ing a refugee pro­por­tion close to 70 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion, is also plagued by bizarre polit­i­cal trends work­ing against its best inter­est in a puz­zling way. [This polit­i­cal trend] turned work in Israel, export to and import from it, and train­ing and tech­ni­cal coop­er­a­tion with it into some­thing taboo.”

Israeli goods burned as part of the BDS activities in the Arab world

Israeli goods (and goods per­ceived as Israeli) burned as part of the BDS activ­i­ties in the Arab world

The author also defends his fel­low Jor­dan­ian cit­i­zens who seek work oppor­tu­ni­ties in Israel against attempts to crim­i­nal­ize their actions. “Cit­i­zens who work in Israel are try­ing to pre­serve their [human] dig­nity, espe­cially as the unem­ploy­ment rate [in Jor­dan] is too high.”  Gharaiba also responds against those who label coop­er­a­tion with Israel as “trea­son” by offer­ing a para­dox­i­cal real­is­tic def­i­n­i­tion: “Trea­son is when a gov­ern­ment aban­dons the inter­ests and eco­nomic oppor­tu­ni­ties of its people.”

The arti­cle com­pares the con­se­quences of such polit­i­cal rhetoric about boy­cotting Israel with the sit­u­a­tion in 1967 when Jor­dan joined sev­eral other Arab coun­tries in attack­ing Israel. Many in the Arab world remem­ber the polit­i­cal rhetoric in these years, which rejected any com­pro­mise with Israel. Accord­ing to the author, today’s calls to boy­cott Israel would add an eco­nomic defeat to the mil­i­tary defeat of the Six Day War.

Gharaibah is not the only one in the Arab world who empha­sizes the eco­nomic hard­ships that are shap­ing the future of the Arab world. A num­ber of Arab intel­lec­tu­als have chal­lenged attempts to mask the role of eco­nomic con­di­tions in trig­ger­ing frus­tra­tions of the Arab youth.

While many who sup­port the BDS move­ment may be moti­vated by what they believe to be the human rights agenda of its lead­ers, they often choose to dis­re­gard real­i­ties on the ground when it comes to the real bur­den endured by the aver­age Arab cit­i­zen. This arti­cle is a sober­ing reminder that the BDS movement’s rhetoric is dis­con­nected  from the real­ity of the cit­i­zens of Jor­dan and poten­tially oth­ers in the Arab world, many of whom are in seri­ous need of the eco­nomic ben­e­fits that could come from fur­ther coop­er­a­tion with Israel.