Letter: Damage done by the Arab trade boycott

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The Independent Online
Sir: Like your correspondent Sarah Helm, I find the plight of the Palestinian businessman Mohamed Yazegi ('Why Seven-Up bottled out of the Gaza franchise', 14 May) both sad and depressing. However, Ms Helm is wrong in her assertion that the Arab trade boycott against Israel came into force in 1967. The boycott was in fact introduced by the Arab League in 1944 when it was aimed at Jewish business and industry in Palestine. It has remained in force ever since.

Although the boycott still aims at damaging business and industry in what is now Israel, it has also done considerable harm to companies that have little to do with the Jewish state. For instance, under the secondary and tertiary boycott regulations, companies that have traded with Israel, or have what the boycott office in Damascus refers to as 'Zionist' connections, are blacklisted.

Fear of such blacklisting has prevented British industry from tendering for business in Israel worth hundreds of millions of pounds - and heaven knows how many jobs. Successive British governments have refused to follow the example of the Americans, the French, the Germans and the Dutch by making compliance with the boycott regulations illegal.

This is despite the fact that the boycott regulations contravene the spirit of free trade and have been criticised not only by supporters of Israel but also by organisations such as the Council for the Advancement of Arab British Understanding.

Yours faithfully,

BERNARD JOSEPHS

Diplomatic Editor

Jewish Chronicle

London, EC4

14 May

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