Divestment at:
  Illegal Activity
Breaking Myths
Online Forum
News Archive
About Us
Contact Us
Boycotts, Divestment and Peace
by Fred Taub,
President, Divestment Watch
The Bush administration has repeatedly stated that democracies do not wage war against each other as the reason why democracy must be brought to the Middle East, but that is not entirely accurate. The fact is that countries relying on and trading with each other do not wage war on each other. While democracy is a helpful part of that equation, because it fosters prosperity and human rights, thus deepening economic ties, the actual vital element in the promotion of peace is simply economic cooperation. The single largest impediment to peace in the Middle East is, therefore, not land and who lives where, but rather the official Arab League boycott of Israel, which was declared even before Israel was created with hopes of starving Israel out of existence.

US anti-boycott laws were created to prevent US citizens from taking part in foreign boycotts of nations friendly to the US, because such activity can create de facto foreign policy. Such boycotts, however, are being pushed in the US primarily by Arab groups, in the form of divest-from-Israel campaigns that include efforts to exclude academic works and visiting professors from Israel, which is akin to book burnings.

Although the divest-from-Israel campaigns were originally campus based, several unsuccessful attempts have been made to expand the Arab boycott of Israel to businesses and municipalities under the cloak of fostering peace. Most businesses realize that joining the Arab boycott of Israel may not only be illegal, but getting involved in such campaigns can put their company in the middle of a fight their products have nothing to do with, and is therefore bad for business. The municipal campaigns are primarily being pursued for symbolic purposes, regardless if the targeted agencies have any business dealings with Israeli companies. Such efforts are merely political and have nothing to do with governance.

The boycott of Israel among Arab League states certainly prevents free and open trade, which is vital to peace. The question at hand is what needs to come first - peace or economic cooperation? While it can be argued that peace is required before economic cooperation can exist, it is also clear that without economic cooperation there can be no peace. Democracy, however, is not required. Cuba and the USSR had economic cooperation and peace, but socialism held back both countries from real prosperity. Dictatorships, including in Arab states, have conducted trade with each other and have had peace.

Arab organizations, primarily on campuses, sponsor divest-from-Israel campaigns, which are in essence boycotts, and recruit non-Arab students to participate in their campaigns under the guise of human rights activism for Palestinians. Although divestment advocates may claim their actions facilitate peace, they have been co-opted into emboldening the Arab nations to continue their economic warfare against Israel and are thus creating an impediment to peace, rather than the peace they actually desire.

Instead of phasing out the Arab boycott of Israel to facilitate peace, the Arab League has been bolstering its efforts to wage economic warfare against Israel in special sessions of Arab League meetings. While negotiating for peace with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, which is signatory to the Arab boycott of Israel, launched the divest-from-Israel campaign through a US professor who acted as an advisor to the PA's negotiating team. At the same time the PA claimed it was negotiating in good faith, it was actually working on its new campaign to destroy Israel via economic collapse.

If anyone truly expects peace to break out in the Middle-East, then there first must be an end to the Arab boycott of Israel, because peace can not exist unless people have a mutual interest in the singular elements that keep peace - free trade and economic dependence. Before trading land or drawling lines on maps, the Bush administration needs to make ending the Arab boycott of Israel its first priority or bloodshed will continue, especially if a militant Palestinian state is created.
© 2005 Divestment Watch