Arab League Assailed for Adding 110 Companies to Boycott Blacklist

Jewish groups have assailed the Arab Central Boycott Office for adding to its blacklist 110 companies that have business ties to Israel.

The action was taken by the boycott office, an arm of the 21-member Arab League, at its 64th semiannual meeting, which ended Saturday in Damascus, Syria.

The boycott office also decided to remove 10 companies from its list, including the Coca-Cola Co., based in Atlanta, Ga. Coca-Cola was unofficially removed from the list in 1989 after Egypt and several Persian Gulf states allowed it to build bottling plants there.

Coca-Cola spokesman Carlton Curtis said the action would have “no effect on our business in Israel, which continues,” the Washington Times reported.

Of the 110 companies added to the list, 104 are partially owned by media tycoon Robert Maxwell, who apparently drew the boycott office’s ire for his 1988 purchase of a one-third stake in Ma’ariv, an Israeli newspaper. Maxwell is also on the board of the Jerusalem Post.

Will Maslow, general counsel at the American Jewish Congress, and editor of its monthly Boycott Report, said the new additions were mostly small companies. “If that’s all they came up with, it’s not so startling,” he said.

But Maslow criticized the boycott office for its “categorical refusal to accept Secretary (of State James) Baker’s very mild proposal to stop boycotting American companies.” Baker made the suggestion during his recent visits to the Middle East, following the end of the allied war against Iraq.

U.S. ‘SHRUGS OFF’ ARAB MOVE

The State Department had no direct comment on the announcement Sunday by the boycott office, except to say: “The position of the United States against the boycott has been firm and unyielding. As we have said many times, the Arabs should end their boycott and end their challenges to Israel’s legitimacy.”

The State Department’s deputy spokesman, Richard Boucher, was asked at his daily briefing Monday whether the new blacklistings constitute an obstacle to peace, a phrase the department has used to describe new Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

“I am not going to try to characterize it,” he said. “We are not going to get into the game of playing who comes first as far as confidence-building measures.”

But Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said in a statement Monday afternoon that “after 43 years of rejectionism,” the “responsibility of confidence-building is on the Arab world.”

While the Bush administration “sharply criticizes Israeli actions, it shrugs off hostile Arab activities,” Foxman said. He called on the administration to “publicly condemn the Arab League decision as an obstacle to peace.”

The American Jewish Committee, in a statement Monday, criticized the latest blacklisting as “economic blackmail.” The decision “tragically illustrates once again the unwillingness of the Arab world, except Egypt, to alter its unremitting hostility to Israel.”

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