JERUSALEM, Israel – While most of the Middle East supports the Boycotts, Sanctions, and Divestments (BDS) movement against Israel, a new Arab initiative is working to combat BDS and encourage economic partnerships between the Arab world and the Jewish State.
Several leaders from 15 Middle Eastern countries came to Jerusalem this week to publicly denounce BDS. Together, they represent the Arab Council for Regional Integration, made of 32 artists, diplomats, and other leaders from Arab countries.
During the conference in Jerusalem, they signed a declaration detailing their commitment to opposing BDS.
Mostafa El-Dessouki and Eglal Gheita, who are part of the council, argue that BDS has harmed the Arab world more than it has harmed Israel.
“They lost the economic benefits of forming partnerships with Israelis,” the pair argue in the Wall Street Journal.
“Trade could provide desalination technology for parched Yemen or more investment in Jordan where unemployment rates are overwhelming,” they continue.
El-Dessouki and Gheita also believe BDS has damaged the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians, making life harder for both sides.
“The exclusionary movement impeded Arabs from resolving tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. Hard-line “resistance” factions such as Hamas have enjoyed support from numerous powers, but those Palestinians striving justly and peacefully to build institutions for a future state can hardly find Arab partners,” they said.
Key figures at the event include Egyptian MP Mohammed Anwar Sadat, nephew of the late president Anwar Sadat, who was assassinated for making peace with Israel in 1981. Former Kuwaiti Minister of Information Sami Abdul-Latif Al-Nisf also joined the group, alongside two significant Islamic religious leaders – Hassen Chalghoumi, a Tunisian cleric, and Lebanese imam Saleh Hamed.
All of them united in denouncing anti-Semitism and proposing how they plan to help bridge the gap between Israel and her Arab neighbors.
El-Dessouki and Gheita said there many others who wanted to stand with them in Jerusalem, but they were intimidated by their governments. However, that will not stop them from seeking a better future for Israel and the broader Middle East.
“To rebuild the region, we must break with this tragic history. Much of the media and many of the political institutions in the Arab world are waging a rhetorical war against Israel’s legitimacy in the public’s mind. To end boycotts of Israel, those who believe in regional cooperation must challenge that perception with honesty about Israel and constructive ideas about our shared future.”