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Experts Find Arab Boycott Failed to Injure Israel Economy, but Stress It Must Be Fought

Seventy experts from 15 countries attending a two day seminar here on “Freedom of Trade with Israel” have concluded that the Arab boycott aimed at injuring Israel’s economy has failed to achieve that goal but that it is essential, nontheless, to pursue as vigorously as ever the anti-boycott measures taken by the United States and Western European governments.

The participants in the seminar included members of parliaments, lawyers, businessmen, economists, representatives of chambers of commerce, Jewish organizations and officials of the ministries of finance and foreign ministries of several countries.

At the conclusion of the seminar, a balance sheet was drown up of the actions undertaken to combat the boycott since the Arab oil embargo in 1973.

The oil weapon employed in the Arabs’ economic warfare against Israel had a corollary, the accumulation of petrodollars in Western banks. But according to Prof. Fred Singer of the University of Virginia, the economic power that accrued to Arab oil producers since 1973 has declined sharply because of reduced oil consumption world-wide and the corresponding drop in oil prices and oil revenues. Another factor is conflict between oil producing countries, currently dramatized by the Iraq-Iran war.

U.S. LEADERSHIP AGAINST BOYCOTT

The seminar noted that the Arab boycott of Israel had forced companies and governmental and public bodies uninvolved in the Arab-Israeli dispute to boycott the State of Israel and its citizens, despite the fact that their countries had normal trade relations with Israel.

One boycott weapon was the “black list” of individuals or companies doing business with Israel or any companies owned by Jews, Zionists or not.

The U.S. took the leadership in anti-boycott measures, the seminar noted. Lionel Olmer, Undersecretary of Commerce for International Trade referred to the 1977 anti-boycott laws within the framework of the Export Administration Act. “We will oppose any attempt to isolate Israel economically, “he said, referring to the current negotiations for the establishment of a U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area (FTA).

He said American Jewish organizations, particularly the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, the American Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee, played an important role in enforcement of the U.S. anti-boycott laws.

On the European scene, it was noted that France was the first member state of the European Economic Community (EEC) to enact anti-boycott legislation in 1981. “In spite of their anti-boycott laws, the U.S. and France continue to have normal economic relations with Arab countries and a more relaxed and fruitful one with Israel,” according to Zvi Tenney, director of the EEC, Energy and Boycotts Division of the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

“For example,” he said, “between 1977 (when the U.S. anti-boycott law was adopted) and 1982, the United States increased its exports to the Arab countries by 128 percent. (West) Germany and Britain, which oppose strongly any anti-boycott legislation improved their exports to those countries by only 106 and 107 percent,” Tenney said.

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