Who’s afraid of the Arab boycott?

Published in The Jerusalem Post on September 26, 1999


To Mr. Michael Eisner

Chairman, Disney Inc.

Mr. Dennis Malamatinais

CEO, Burger King

Sirs — I know that you have been under a lot of pressure lately from Arab-American groups and Arab states to curtail your involvement with the State of Israel; to close burger franchises over here in ‘disputed’ areas, and to censor our Jerusalem millennial pavilion at Epcot Center. Otherwise, the Arabs are going to ‘boycott’ you.


For the life of me, I can’t imagine what the heck you’re so concerned about. The so-called ‘Arab boycott’ is a paper tiger; a toothless, harmless fiction. On a consumer level, the Arab market is tiny. And on the merits of the issues, virtue is on Israel’s side. So have a little backbone, and blow-off the Arab criticism.


Let’s start with the Arab League, which has been huffing and puffing away, especially about the presentation of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at Disneyland. Just who and what power does this enfeebled, reactionary body represent? The Arab economies are crumbling!


Saudi Arabia is actually borrowing money on the world markets, and postponing arms purchases because of economic difficulties. Kuwait has been bankrupt ever since the Gulf War. OPEC long ago lost control of the global oil market. Syria has more than $20 billion of external debt. Iran too. Egypt is a perennial economic basket-case.


In fact, the purchasing power of all 22 Arab states put together about equals that of Holland. Even the acquiescent Japanese, who for years were the most submissively compliant with the Arab boycott, now trade and invest openly in Israel, including Jerusalem. There is simply no big bad Arab economic threat out there to be afraid of.


As for potential loss of consumer revenues, just how many halal hamburgers do you really sell in America or the Gulf? There are 60 million Egyptians, but I can’t imagine that the poverty-stricken masses there buy too many copies of Disney’s Arabic-language coloring books! Arab tourism to America and Europe is little more than a trickle; and its dollar value pales in comparison with the purchasing power of American Jewry.


Now let’s talk about the politics. Consider the people behind all the ruckus: a ragtag group of Arab and Moslem Americans, banded together under the rubric of radical groups like the ADC, AAI and CAIR. Arab states in the Mideast have been dragged along by them.


Since this is probably your first encounter with this alphabet soup of Arab-American organizations let me give you some background. These guys are a grouchy, angry bunch, who operate in perpetual attack-mode. Like Peter Pan, they are having real difficulties leaving Never-Never-Land; accepting Israel and coming to terms with the fact that an Arab-Israel peace process is underway.


I can’t think of a single Arab-American group that welcomed the recent Sharm al-Sheikh accord between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. They’re too busy attacking Israel, organizing boycotts, defending Arab-Americans accused of terrorism in this part of the world, and attacking Israel again.


I’ve got to tell you, these guys are doing a real disservice to the peace process. If under the new, enthusiastically pro-peace government in Israel, which is divesting us of the ‘disputed territories’ at breakneck speed, Israel and her business partners are still subject to threat and boycott – then you have to wonder whether reconciliation ever is possible.


Simply put, the Arab-American leaders at the forefront of the resurgent anti-Israel campaign are undermining the credibility of the peace process.


And what about the places in Israel so hotly contested by these behind-the-times rabble-rousers? You need not be ashamed to stand up openly and say – we’re well within the moderate consensus. Burger King joints in Maaleh Adumim and Latrun? Not one responsible Mideast negotiator on any side can honestly deny that these areas — in close proximity to the Green Line with no sizable Arab population — will remain Israeli.


Enough of the hypocrisy over Jerusalem, as well! To paraphrase Benjamin Disraeli – way back, when Arabs and others were busy with idols, our ancestors already were worshipping one God in Jerusalem. Under Arab rule, before Israel’s liberation of the city in the Six Day War, the holy city was ransacked and neglected. Today, as Israel’s capital, united Jerusalem flourishes and sparkles, with freedom of religion guaranteed to all faiths.


What’s next? Brandishing their Pyrrhic victory over Israel at your expense, Arab groups in the US may next attempt to censor the Bible of American churches so that Jerusalem is never mentioned as David’s capital. Unless, of course, someone stands firm and puts a halt to such anachronistic, bad-tempered Arab-American shenanigans.


So, Messrs. Eisner and Malamatinais, fear not for the Magical Kingdom or the burger business. Your critics are blowing smoke and playing with cap-guns. Pull yourself loose from the fantasyland that some holdover, rejectionist Arabs are attempting to fry for you, and history will thank you.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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