Your obnoxious adherence to the Arab boycott made Chanukah come early for the Israelis.
By Lyon Roth
Source: Globes Online


Dear Dubai,

On behalf of many, I would like to say shukran iktir (thanks a lot). Thanks to your longstanding adherence to the Arab boycott, dozens of Israeli investors and entrepreneurs got their Chanukah present a couple of weeks early this year. Admittedly, this was an unconventional gift from an entirely unexpected source, but Israelis were completely spared the carnage precipitated by the Dubai debacle disclosed last week.

Rest assured that, given the chance, Israelis would have aggressively pursued investment opportunities in the region. Isolated for years, they have become among the most globally active entrepreneurs, seeking practically any market that will agree to work with them. Historically, that meant traveling great distances. When a Frenchman wants to export something locally, he can get in his car and drive to any of eight countries: Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra or Spain. An Argentinian can drive to five: Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil or Uruguay. There is only one place an export-oriented Israeli businessman can drive to: Ben Gurion Airport. Due to the Arab boycott, regional trade has never been an option and Israel’s closest geographic neighbors may just as well have been on Mars.

No peace payoff

Your application of the Arab boycott is neither original nor unique. Arab boycotts of Jewish interests started as early as 1922. A formal boycott was declared by the newly formed Arab League Council on December 2, 1945, two and half years before the creation of the modern State of Israel. It applied to “all Jewish and Zionist products.” The boycott evolved after 1948, and intensified following the Yom Kippur war in 1973. Essentially, it has three components: (1) the primary boycott, which prohibits direct trade between Israel and the Arab nations; (2) the secondary boycott, directed against companies that do business with Israel; and (3) the tertiary boycott that blacklists firms that trade with other companies that do business with Israel. The latter two components have been somewhat relaxed since the Oslo accords in 1993 and the peace treaty with Jordan in 1994. That year also marked the launch of the World Economic Forum’s Middle East North Africa business summits, in which many of your countrymen participated.

Patterned after the famous annual gatherings held in Davos, these were the first formal engagements between Israeli and Arab business leaders. As expected, Israeli participants, including Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, were tripping all over each other to meet potential Arab business partners who, for the most part, seemed overwhelmed and uncomfortable. Very few deals were consummated, and those that were received harsh condemnation in the Arab world for being premature.

The next year, in Amman, Israelis showed up with a list of 218 proposed projects worth $25 billion. As can be imagined, almost all were ignored. Moreover, the $5 billion regional bank that was agreed was never established. The Egyptians hosted the following year, and the last of these conferences was held in Doha, Qatar in 1997.

As a participant, I can attest that a lot of pressure was applied, directly and indirectly, by the Americans as well as EU countries, to end the Arab boycott entirely. These efforts failed. However, the summits did provide an opportunity to meet, learn from, and develop relationships with potential partners who, hopefully, would be more forthcoming in a more private forum.

Politics prevails

In the 1990s, I was working for Koor Industries. It was Israel’s largest conglomerate with over 50 subsidiaries, employing 35,000 people and representing 7% of the country’s industrialized economy. Following each of the three World Economic Forum conferences I attended, I traveled throughout the region (with a Canadian passport) to see whether Koor’s extensive menu could provide a platform for joint venture activities with Arab interlocutors, especially within the Persian Gulf. I visited each of the six GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman) at least once and was in your city, Dubai, four times. Everyone I met was courteous and curious. But, at the end of the day, the political obstacles were insurmountable.

It is worth recalling that in 1997, oil was trading at about $10-12 a barrel, and these countries were under enormous pressure to accelerate economic diversification. Perhaps because you in Dubai had already almost run out of oil, you were substantially ahead of your neighbors in almost every other industry. Major real estate construction projects punctuated the expanding skyline and the unquenchable thirst for record-breaking trophies was visible all over the city. You developed a thriving diamond industry, a financial center, and a burgeoning tourism and entertainment complex that was a playground for the wealthy within the region and beyond. Flying to and from Riyadh through Dubai was an incredible study in contrasts. In Dubai, women wore western clothes, worked in offices and drove cars. The mega-wealthy would fly in and out just to purchase luxury goods from the largest duty-free zone in the world.

Over the next ten years, as oil soared towards a peak price of $147 per barrel, the Arab elite became increasingly wealthier and your town became their favorite place to show off their wealth. Major neighborhoods were built on man-made islands offshore, contractors were outdoing each other to construct the next Tower of Babel and a city that never came within 20 degrees of a snowy day now offers visitors year-round skiing – indoors! Nothing was too expensive because the petrodollar flow was destined to last forever. One or two Israeli real estate tycoons who have partnered with Saudi businessman on other projects are rumored to be “silent partners” in some Dubai projects as well. Yet you generally adhered to the Arab boycott and remain extremely reluctant to embrace meaningful partnerships with Israeli companies.

There is an old joke about the Jew who prefers to read Arab newspapers because instead of reading about Jews being persecuted, Israel being attacked, Jews disappearing through assimilation, and Jews living in poverty, he can now read how Jews own all the banks, Jews control the media, Jews are all rich and powerful, and Jews rule the world. One world Jews don’t own any part of is Dubai World, the sovereign wealth fund that is now teetering on the brink of insolvency, struggling to restructure nearly $60 billion in debt. This has already had significant repercussions for numerous entities within the region and many countries around the world. Except Israel. So as we approach Chanukah, let me say once again, shukran Iktir. And a’id sa’id (happy holiday).

Lyon (Lenny) Roth is a senior executive at an international wealth management firm, a member of Ben Gurion University’s Board of Governors and a member of the Jewlicious Board of Directors.

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2009

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  • There is only one place an export-oriented Israeli businessman can drive to: Ben Gurion Airport. Due to the Arab boycott, regional trade has never been an option and Israel’s closest geographic neighbors may just as well have been on Mars.

    Um, aren’t there Israeli businessmen (and women) doing business in Egypt and Jordan? Heck, I’ve worked with an Israeli company that does a ton of business in Egypt. The boss usually takes the company jet to Cairo rather than driving, but still…

  • אין שמחה כשמחה לאיד

    “There’s no happiness quite like the happiness at the misfortune of another”

  • lol, what a great article, but only one problem

    Dubai world collapse doesnt mean the collapse of the entire country

    the debt is 60 billion dollars, less than bernard madoffs 65 billion dollar ponzi scheme

    dubai is part of the UAE and UAE has 600 billion dollars in assets, so UAE has just to sell 10% of their assets

    the only bad news for dubai is that its neighbour abu dhabi will control it from now own

    think of abu dhabi as the federal reserve and think of dubai world inc as wall street

    by the way dubai world collapsed in 60 billion debt is because of the global meltdown, which the west is suffering too

    and since the west is the source of israel trade and weapons, you people shouldnt be celebrating their suffering too much


  • correction, not 600 billions in assets but 627 billion dollars in the UAE’s sovereign wealth fund

  • why do you jews forget that dubai will be bailed out by abu dhabi unlike the US which is borrowing money from china,japan,europe etc to finance their budget

  • israel may not be affected by dubai;s economic problem but it has definitely been affected by the global economic crisis

    not to mention the numerous jewish wall street executives who have been arrested or are under investigation for fraud

    and this post reeks of hatred of dubai’s success

    I dont see arabs celebrating the economic crisis affecting america

    the economic crisis has severely affected las vegas and floria, playground for america’s richest jews

    this article shows there is no such thing as a jewish moderate

    i actually know a lot of stupid arabs from the gulf that wants better relations with israel, now i am going to show them this post, since jewlicious is a well known jewish mainstream blog, this post will definitely represent the jewish mainstream view

  • A few of my friends, all ardent Zionists, have been to Dubai over the last few years. They found the people friendly and the country fun and none of us are celebrating their misfortune. Not in the least. Had Dubai not steadfastly adhered to the boycott against Israel, we’d have gladly invested a shit ton of cash into their economy. Fortunately, the UAE will be able to weather this storm and come out the better if not the wiser for it. The Israelis who didn’t lose money are breathing a sigh of relief obviously, but we hold no enmity towards Dubai. We wish them well – even the author of this post will attest to their keen sense of hospitality and friendliness despite their adherence to the boycott. The comments above from our idiot friend from Bangladesh are his usual idiocy and nothing more.

  • you arent enjoying their economic troubles?

    read the title of the post


  • CTC- still pissed that Tajikistan bounced Bangladesh from World Cup qualification? Get over it, dude.

  • It is unfortunate that we people of the economic power’s critize the mismanagement of other’s…. Look at where you are living and who is in the control of your finances…Borrowing money from the weathy has alway’s been the target.

  • and since we are talking about borrowing money from others, the flow of money is actually backwards

    there is a 200 billion dollar flow from the “south” to the “north”

    its one of the greatest imbalances of human history

    but i bet you people dont know anything about it, jews are only concerned about putting down arabs

    if you dont believe me, look up payments of african countries to the west

    you people in the west are subsidized by africans living in mud huts, you are the most depraved people in human history, nothing more, you survive on human suffering,

    israels biggest exports are weapons and diamonds, sources of instability around the world, especially africa

    you jews are always looking for your pound of flesh, fucking shylocks

  • CTC: Yes. Read the title of the post. Chanukah isn’t about schadenfreude – it’s about, in many respects, thankfulness. We’re thankful that we emerged victorious over the far more powerful Hellenists, thankful that we were able to rededicate the temple and thankful that we could continue to practice our religion freely. Given the otherwise friendly interactions between the people of Dubai and many Israelis, I doubt anyone reasonable is pleased with this economic setback, obnoxious adherence to boycotts or not. In speaking to Israelis who have managed to do business with Gulf States, they always mention how they are treated with extreme courtesy and hospitality and how the people they interact with basically don’t give a rat’s ass about the Palestinians whom they consider mostly whiny little bitches. The memory of the Palestinian support of Saddam Hussein when he invaded Kuwait is still fresh in most people’s minds. Only an idiot like you would take this tongue in cheek article and attribute to it some sort of nasty motivation.

  • WOW. You ALL are extremely off. What are we fighting over. “Arab who doesn’t like Jews” REALLY? My jaw is dropping with your idiocracy!!!!! Go jump off of a building because I think you might be useless. Literally, name a talent you possess besides sucking at life. I’m Jewish so I’ll donate a few dollars to researching your condition Down Syndrome is a bitch. People like you are the reason we are fighting. Try to sleep at night and let me know how it works.

  • Fuck you…you mother fuckin jew….Catholic Rules….you fuckers should put into gas chambers again n again n again….

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