Wassim Al-Adel, The Electronic Intifada - While boycott and divestment campaigns in the West become more sophisticated and widespread, the Arab world's longstanding boycott of Israel is being undermined by Arab governments, companies and businessmen. This attempt at no-concession normalization with Israel must be countered by all those working for justice in Palestine. The recent Adalah-NY campaign against Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev sheds light on the burgeoning relationship between Arab governments and businesses, and Israel.
Earlier this year, the New York-based coalition Adalah-NY successfully spearheaded a campaign to prevent Leviev from opening a branch of his diamond chain in Dubai. Leviev is the chairman of Africa Israel Investments, which is constructing illegal Jewish-only settlements in the area of the West Bank village of Jayyous through its subsidiary, Danya Cebus. A mixture of media exposure and public outcry forced the Emirati authorities to deny that the jeweler had been granted any permission. This was a victory for those who wish to see an end to the Israeli occupation.
The success of the Adalah-NY campaign offers activists two insights: first, there is a growing culture of numbness and complicity toward Israel and its financial backers which is being cultivated at the highest levels of Arab governments. Second, these same governments are susceptible to pressure when the extent of this collusion becomes apparent.
It is disappointing to learn that, while public outcry and media attention effectively prevented Leviev from setting up shop in Dubai, other companies with known links to Israel continue to operate freely there. Giant retailer Marks & Spencer is high on the boycott list of most pro-Palestinian groups, and yet it has just recently opened one of its biggest stores in Dubai with an investment of approximately $3.9 million and plans for further expansion throughout the region.