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Wednesday, March 1, 2006
The UAE Port Deal Would Irreparably Harm Israel
By Fred Taub,
Divestment Watch
   We have all heard the Bush administration telling us not to worry about the deal to allow the Arab Emirates owned Dubai Ports World Company run major US ports. There is one important factor people should all be worrying about - how the deal affects Israel. Let's examine the facts.

   The Bush administration claims the company managing the ports is not responsible for the security of the ports and then says the job is the responsibility of the Department of Homeland Security and the US Coast Guard. The fact is everyone working at ports has security responsibility just as individuals are responsible for locking their cars and homes, not the police. The company managing the ports does, however, have special access to all shipments, timetables, routes, container content, bills of lading, secured holding areas and, most worrisome to intelligence analysts, access to information about secret US shipments around the world including where such items are being shipped to and from. The information gathered by any port operator, placed in the wrong hands, can easily be offered to foreign agents without the US knowing it, thus foreign management can create an intelligence security nightmare for the US.

   While the United Arab Emirates is friendly to the US and allows US Naval ships to dock there, there is more to the UAE story than just that.

   The UAE was formed in 1971 and is a federation of seven Emirates, including Dubai. The UAE has limited federal powers, leaving many governmental powers to member emirates, and not all member Emirates are part of the federation court system which has both civil and Islamic courts. The Islamic courts rule over all family matters and women do not have the right to vote anywhere in the UAE. This raises questions about human rights. Should our ports be operated by a nation that denies women the right to vote? Will US unions go on immediate strike demanding the right of women to vote before working for DPW? Considering that women working US docks are union members, I would expect to hear from Unions on this topic and a strike would not surprise me.

   The UAE is a major drug transshipment point for Southwest Asian drug producing countries and, being a major financial center, this makes the UAE ideal for money laundering which is often associated with the drug trade. The UAE has undefined and open borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman, thus allowing drugs and other goods, including weapons, to be moved between those countries without scrutiny. A Middle East open-borders crisis occurred in 2002 when North Korean Scud missiles were shipped to Yemen and then vanished. Considering that the UAE has open borders and would control ports on both ends of a single shipment, we need to be concerned with UAE control of our ports.

   The UAE is a member of the Arab League and is signatory member of the Arab boycott of Israel. The Syrian-based Central Office for the Boycott of Israel, a.k.a. the Central Boycott Office, enforces the pan-Arab boycott of Israel on 3 levels. CBO-enforced primary boycotts forbid Israeli products into any Arab country, including Israeli components in finished goods. Arabs were upset, for example, when they found Israeli batteries in Apple computers and demanded the suppliers remove all such batteries from future shipments.

   Secondary and tertiary boycotts are generally boycotts of companies which work with companies that have other business with Israel, regardless if any element of a shipment emanates from Israel. In a global economy, such boycotts are harder to enforce on a wide scale. These elements of the Arab boycott of Israel are, however, managed by the CBO which goes as far as banning any ship that ever docked in any Israeli port from any future docking at an Arab country port. The official boycott list is tightly held and is estimated to include more than 200,000 companies. Recent Arab League meetings have included agreements to strengthen the Arab boycott of Israel, thus the Arab boycott of Israel is very active.

   A recent US Trade Representative report on trade barriers states that although the UAE no longer enforces the secondary and tertiary aspects of the boycott, the UAE enforces the primary boycott and "occasional government contracts continue to contain pro forma provisions requiring a contractual obligation to 'observe all regulations and instructions enforced from time to time by the League of Arab States regarding the boycott of Israel especially those related to blacklisted companies, ships, and persons.' "

   In 1977, the US passed a law creating the Office of Antiboycott Compliance in the Department of Commerce in order to prevent any US persons from joining into foreign sanctioned boycotts against nations friendly to the US, thus preventing individuals from creating de facto foreign policy. This law primarily applies to the Arab boycott of Israel, making it illegal to take actions in furtherance of that boycott. The OAC primarily concerns itself with prosecuting businesses that supply information about Israeli product content and other business dealings with Israel to boycotting nations. To get around the secondary aspects of this law, Arab countries simply require declarations that the goods shipped are 100% US made, thus Arab importers accomplish their boycott goals by assuring the product contains no Israeli components. OAC-imposed fines for supplying information about Israeli product content to boycotting nations can be hundreds of thousands of dollars, plus denial of future export licenses.

   The bill of lading is documentation about every shipment via truck, train or ship and contains detailed information about the shipment content, quantities, origin and destination. With this information, the UAE via Dubai Ports World would be able to examine detailed information about shipments to and from Israel, a nation the UAE actively boycotts. Even if such information is guaranteed to remain in the US, digital copies of such data can be made and emailed globally. The DPW deal would therefore facilitate the supply of information contained in the bills of lading of commercial products to be used by the Arab leagues nations to offer alternative products to US buyers, thus creating a trade barrier for Israeli exporters. In fact, by Dubai having this information, the Arab world would be able to launch a full-scale economic war against Israel by using shipping information to enact total disruption of Israeli exports in the US and around the world.

   This is not a cloak and dagger fantasy. The Arab League and its members have been running several campaigns to ruin Israel economically on a global scale for years. The first such campaign was the Arab League boycott which started as early as 1921, twenty-seven years before Israel was a state, and which is still in full force today. Second, a divest-from-Israel campaign was enacted to, in the words of its organizers, make Israel 'economically unbalanced' and to create a 'one state solution' meaning a Palestinian state without Israel. A third such campaign, which was enacted while the Palestinian Authority was claiming to negotiate with Israel in good faith for a Palestinian state, is the PA organized economic blockade of Israel in Malaysia.

   Having DPW-managed ports would also make shipping military goods to Israel difficult. Tanks, trucks and other large military hardware do not fit into shipping containers, thus they can not be hidden, even by the CIA. This is not information the US or Israel wants in the hands of countries sworn to Israel's destruction.

   Since the DPW deal would facilitate the bill of lading information for all shipments through DPW-managed ports to Israel to be given to directly to every Arab nation that is sworn to the destruction of Israel, the DPW deal should ring alarm bells.

   On the terror front, since the UAE is a major drug port and DPW will have access to secured shipping areas, we may potentially be opening US ports to a new channel of drug and weapons imports, including terror weapons imports and money laundering. Yes, the Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security are responsible for port security, but when the same company runs both the import and export port for a single shipment, security can more easily be compromised. For that same reason, we should not allow, for example, Columbian or Mexican ports operating company having operational access to US ports for shipments to and from those countries either.

   The US Antiboycott laws are vital to prevent boycotts from being used to create de facto foreign policy. The DPW deal would cause irreparable harm to Israel's economy. Although US ships visit many foreign ports, we have to ask ourselves if we want to bring economic harm and possibly devastating harm to another ally, namely Israel.

   Some pundits have argued that DPW can manage the ports more inexpensively than any US company can, but the price of those savings is too high. It is time to stand up for America - demand that American companies run American ports.

   Fred Taub is the President of Boycott Watch (www.boycottwatch.org) which monitors and reports about consumer boycotts, and Divestment Watch (www.divestmentwatch.com) which exposed the illegal nature of the divest-from-Israel campaign as well as why it is bad for the US and is anti-peace.
© 2005 Divestment Watch