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August 31, 2020 5:43 am

The End of the UAE Boycott Is a Blow to BDS

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avatar by Avi Benlolo


A pro-BDS demonstration. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel suffered a major blow this weekend, when the UAE revoked its 1972 decree to boycott the State of Israel. Abu Dhabi’s crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, effectively tore up the decree as part of the nascent Abraham Accord signed with Israel.

Even though Israel has powered through the Arab boycott — becoming a regional economic superpower — the UAE’s symbolic move is a message in a bottle: we are open to Israel for business. The end of the boycott effectively implies normalization of trade and commerce between the two nations. UAE citizens, in other words, may soon find “Bamba” — an Israeli snack food — in their supermarkets.

This, of course, is an affront to the traditional mandate of most Arab nations since Israel’s inception, if not before. The Khartoum Resolution of 1967 set the stage for a steadfast political and economic boycott of Israel. It was at this summit, following Israel’s shocking victory in the Six-Day War, that the Arab League declared the now infamous “Three Nos”: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel.

The boycott unified Arab states in the region and at the United Nations. Anti-Israel resolutions intensified and became the norm. But Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt in 1979 and then with Jordan in 1994 weakened the Arab alliance — and with it, its boycott. Still, there was no love lost between Israel and its new “friends.” It was a cold peace, and trade and commerce between them was minimal.

The boycott movement re-intensified with the failure of the Oslo Accords and the onset of Palestinian terrorism against the Jewish state.

Terror failed to bring down Israel. The Palestinian leadership turned to promoting an intensive defamation and boycott campaign in an attempt to criminalize Israel, called BDS. The campaign was linked to labeling Israel an “apartheid state,” and it falsely drew parallels with apartheid-era South Africa. Across the West, students on university campuses lobbied for BDS and tried deceiving the international community by calling Israel a racist state.

While the BDS campaign still takes hold on university campuses, inspiring antisemitism and hatred for the Jewish state, the UAE’s peace accord with Israel and its visible establishment of direct ties is going to be a death knell for the movement. Trade and collaboration between Israel and its Arab neighbors is inevitable; it will become pronounced as more countries sign a peace agreement with the Jewish state.

The enemies of peace will inevitably try harder to defame and marginalize Israel. But their hopes and dreams will be dashed with each El Al plane landing in Abu Dhabi and Emirati jets touching down in Tel Aviv. We have a real chance at peace and friendship. Perhaps the Palestinian Authority can even learn something about peacemaking. Time will tell.

Avi Benlolo is a Canadian human rights activist and the former president and CEO of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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