Thursday, March 09, 2006

Saudi Arabia and the Embargo on Israel: A Juncture

Back in November, 2005,The Jerusalem Post had a big headline: Saudi Arabia lifts Israel embargo, announcing Saudi Arabia’s decision to give up its embargo against Israel in exchange for inclusion in the World Trade Organization. As the article so hopefully pointed out, in order to gain entrance into the WTO, and maintain membership, NO member nation may impose an economic embargo on another member state. And Israel is a member of the WTO…therefore, no more embargo, right? Finally, one of the fifty seven states involved in this decades-long embargo was breaking from the pack. The Post had reason for its elation.

Allah Akhbar!That was then. This is now, and now includes Saudi Arabia’s hosting of a meeting in Jidda, from March 13-15th . This “summit” has been called specifically to focus on strengthening the Islamic economic boycott of Israel. You see, Saudi Arabia is not only a member of the WTO. It is also a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the OIC. This dreary group has been in existence since forever. First founded as the Arab League — in 1949 when it was frightened by the appearance of Jews on its doorstep — and then later, in 1969 after its military humiliation at the hands of said Jews, it morphed into an organization to include all Islamic states, not just those in Arabia. Here’s what their official website has to say:

The Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) is an inter-governmental organization grouping fifty-seven States. These States decided to pool their resources together, combine their efforts and speak with one voice to safeguard the interest and ensure the progress and well-being of their peoples and those of other Muslims in the world over.

The Organization was established in Rabat, Kingdom of Morocco, on 12 Rajab 1389H (25 September 1969) when the First meeting of the leaders of the Islamic world was held in this city in the wake of the criminal arson perpetrated on 21 August 1969 by Zionist elements against Al-Aqsa Mosque, in occupied Jerusalem. It was indeed in order to defend the honour, dignity and faith of the Muslims, to face this bitter challenge launched in the holy city of Al-Quds so dear to them and against the Mosque of Al-Aqsa, the first Qibla and third holiest Shrine of Islam, that the leaders of the Muslim world, at their Summit in Rabat, seized that event - which brought about unanimous worldwide condemnation and reprobation - to think together of their common cause and muster the force required to overcome their differences, unite and lay the foundations of this large grouping of States, that is, the Organization of the Islamic Conference which they entrusted, in absolute priority, with liberating Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa from Zionist occupation.

Any organization created as a reaction to an “enemy” state has a certain negative orientation. Thus, despite the florid prose of the rest of their website, this is a group founded to eradicate Israel. Period. Well, actually not period. More accurately, it is an organization devoted to the demise of Israel and its replacement with an Islamic state, namely Palestine.

Today, The Washington Times, in a byline from Geneva, noted the flim-flam:

U.S. and Israeli officials are concerned that Saudi Arabia may be breaking the promise it made when it entered the World Trade Organization last year by hosting a meeting next week on the Arab economic boycott of Israel.

"I think this is a bit too much," said Itzhak Levanon, Israel's ambassador to the WTO, noting it has been only three months since Saudi Arabia was admitted to the organization on terms that require it to treat Israel like any other WTO member.

The promise was that the Saudis would not seek an exemption for Israel from WTO requirements to treat all members equally. The exemption would have preserved its participation, along with other Arab states, in a boycott of Israel.

In Washington, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office said officials from the Department of Commerce and other agencies have been in contact with the Saudis over the issue.
The reality is that the boycott has softened over the years. However, with the emerging hard-line Islamist approach, that may be changing:

The boycott, imposed by the Arab League in 1945, seeks to isolate Israel by barring trade with the Jewish state and in some cases companies that do business in Israel. The OIC monitors compliance through its own Israeli Boycott Office…

Adherence to the boycott has softened over the years even among Arab states as countries like Egypt and Jordan established diplomatic and economic links with Israel.

Participation in the boycott by the United Arab Emirates has emerged as an issue during the debate in Washington over a deal giving a Dubai company control over six American seaports.
Push has come to shove. If the OIC, including Saudi Arabia, gets hard-nosed about the boycott of Israel, this will send a clear signal about its intransigence re: any moderation of Islamist utopian visions.

So, what will it be, Muslims? Moderation or eventual obliteration? Your call.

For the full flavor of the OIC, go here to their resolutions on the cause of Palestine.