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Is Palestine really on top of the Arab agenda?

Foreign Ministers pose for a family photo during a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Arab League states in Kuwait City on January 30, 2022 [Kuwait Foreign Ministry/Anadolu Agency]
Foreign Ministers pose for a family photo during a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Arab League states in Kuwait City on January 30, 2022 [Kuwait Foreign Ministry/Anadolu Agency]

At a meeting with delegates at the Headquarters of the Arab League held in Cairo on Sunday, Assistant Secretary-General, Saeed Abu-Ali, called for the strengthening of the Arab boycott of Israel as an effective tool to confront the Israeli occupation.

"This meeting comes as the Israeli occupation authorities are still continuing their systematic campaign of aggression against the Palestinian people, their sanctities and their property," Abu-Ali said, stating: "These ongoing crimes require the intervention of the international community, especially the UN Security Council and regional and international organisations, to assume their responsibilities and stop the policy of double standards."

In the presence of the senior Arab officials, the delegates commended some international bodies which have been involved in boycotting Israel, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, as well as companies for supporting justice for the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights.

The Arab League is the umbrella organisation which represents the Arab States. Since the time before the creation of Israel, the Arab League has been calling for, and promoting, boycotting of Zionists and Jews, who colonised Palestinian lands. The Arab League's boycott of Israel refers to halting all forms of direct and indirect relations.

READ: Arab League stresses boycott of Israel to end occupation and save two-state solution

On 2 December 1945, three years before the creation of the State of Israel, the Arab League Council formally declared the Arab boycott of Zionist entities and people in Palestine.

"Jewish products and manufactured goods shall be considered undesirable to the Arab countries," the declaration stipulated. All Arab "institutions, organisations, merchants, commission agents and individuals" were called upon "to refuse to deal in, distribute or consume Zionist products or manufactured goods."

Since the beginning, the hypocrisy of the Arab League and its member States was very clear. While the Arab League claimed it would isolate the Jewish communities in the Zionist colonies in Palestine, at the same time, it boycotted the Palestinians who were enduring the brutal British occupation. To protest against this, the Palestinians filed complaints to the Arab Higher Committee and the Arab League itself. Nothing changed.

In order not to deviate from the topic, I will not explain here how the Arab States facilitated the Zionist occupation of Palestine. On the creation of Israel in 1948, the Arab States reiterated their official boycott of the newly self-proclaimed State.

On 29 August 1967, after the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights, the Arab League held its fourth summit in Khartoum and reiterated on three issues: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel and no negotiations with Israel.

Gradually, Israel became a friend of the Arab States, who also gradually disowned the Palestinians and their cause. In the 1970s, the AIPAC spearheaded a campaign to pass a law by the US Congress to fight the Arab League boycott of Israel. This ended up with the Congress passing a law in 1977 that prohibited US companies from cooperating with the Arab boycott.

The then US President Jimmy Carter, who signed the law, said the "issue goes to the very heart of free trade among nations" and that it was designed to "end the divisive effects on American life of foreign boycotts aimed at Jewish members of our society."

The Arab League threatened to take a decisive stand against the new law; however, imports and exports between Arab and US firms increased, and broader diplomatic and cultural relations improved. Very few companies were blacklisted for trading with Israel. Some of the Arab League member States insisted on the boycott, but some opened their arms to Israel, like Egypt and Jordan, who signed peace deals with Israel and started full commercial, cultural and other forms of relations with Israel. They became close friends.

While the Arab States got angry with Egypt, they did not get angry with Jordan. When Egypt signed the peace deal with Israel in 1978, it was the only Arab country which took that step, but when Jordan took that measure in 1994, it was the second to take such an official one, and could have left no Arab League member States without secret relations with Israel.

Later on, in 2002, the Arab League held a summit in Beirut and all the 22 member States unanimously agreed on a peace initiative that would end the Arab conflict between Israel and all the Arab States, not only with the Palestinians. However, Israel refused the initiative, but the Arab States insisted on adopting it.

After the adoption of the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002, it became easy for the Arab States to speak about their relations and cooperation with the State of Israel, which did not stop its day and night aggression on the Palestinians and their property and holy sites.

READ: Arab League urges Libya politicians to preserve state institutions

Through time, the situation regarding the Arab Boycott of Israel has turned into Arab boycott of the legitimate Palestinian resistance, deportation of Palestine refugees from Arab States, or detaining those who remain on Arab soil, adopting the resistance ideology such as what is happening in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others.

Some of the Arab States, such as Jordan and Egypt, have explicitly been joining their hands with the Israeli hands in inflicting suffering on the Palestinians. Egypt and Jordan have border crossings with the Palestinians territories, where the Palestinians experience unprecedented suffering when they travel through them.

While Israel continues its aggression on the Palestinians, the Arab States continue getting closer and friendlier with Israel. While the freely elected Palestinian MPs are prohibited from entering most of the Arab capitals, Israeli leaders – who takes pride in killing the Palestinians and Arabs – are warmly received and have family dinners with Arab leaders.

Even the Arab countries, who claim they are still supporters of the Palestinians resistance and enemies of the Israeli occupation, are liars as many of the Palestinian resistance, who are living in hiding outside Palestine, have been banned from living on their soil.

Almost all Arab States are oil or gas-rich countries; none of them is sending any of this to the besieged Palestinians to only operate the sole electricity power plant in Gaza. All of this proves that Arab regimes hold the boycott of Israel as a hypocritical slogan, just to claim supporting Palestine, not as a measure that should turn to practice.

Therefore, when we see Heads of Arab States or ministers and officials speaking about Palestine, it does not mean that the Palestine issue is on their agenda, but this is to justify their relations and communication with Israel and receiving Israeli occupiers and murderers.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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Arab LeagueArticleInternational OrganisationsIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestine
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