Anti-Israel activists have often argued that the goal of the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) campaign is to encourage Israelis to think critically about the “economic cost of the Occupation,” but a recent article published by Al-Hayat, one of the leading daily pan-Arab newspapers, may be challenging them to consider thinking about the costs some Arabs endure as a result of calls to resist normal relations with Israel.
“Resisting Normalization [with Israel] in Jordan adds economic losses to the defeat” by Jordanian journalist Ibrahim Gharaiba, which appeared on the international edition of Al-Hayat on March 7, offers a realistic picture of the real price Jordanians are paying as a result of calls to boycott Israel.
According to Gharaiba, the Israel–Jordan peace treaty, known as Wadi Araba, could have transformed the status of war between the two counties into great economic and development opportunities for Jordan. “Israel, which its status has changed into a non-enemy country is located at the same geographic region as Jordan, and it has an advanced economy which achieves very high levels of human development.”
This Israeli success story, according to the article, is focused around areas with strategic importance for Jordan, such as water desalination and agriculture.
“Jordan, which suffered a military defeated in 1967 and regional crises creating a refugee proportion close to 70 percent of the population, is also plagued by bizarre political trends working against its best interest in a puzzling way. [This political trend] turned work in Israel, export to and import from it, and training and technical cooperation with it into something taboo.”
The author also defends his fellow Jordanian citizens who seek work opportunities in Israel against attempts to criminalize their actions. “Citizens who work in Israel are trying to preserve their [human] dignity, especially as the unemployment rate [in Jordan] is too high.” Gharaiba also responds against those who label cooperation with Israel as “treason” by offering a paradoxical realistic definition: “Treason is when a government abandons the interests and economic opportunities of its people.”
The article compares the consequences of such political rhetoric about boycotting Israel with the situation in 1967 when Jordan joined several other Arab countries in attacking Israel. Many in the Arab world remember the political rhetoric in these years, which rejected any compromise with Israel. According to the author, today’s calls to boycott Israel would add an economic defeat to the military defeat of the Six Day War.
Gharaibah is not the only one in the Arab world who emphasizes the economic hardships that are shaping the future of the Arab world. A number of Arab intellectuals have challenged attempts to mask the role of economic conditions in triggering frustrations of the Arab youth.
While many who support the BDS movement may be motivated by what they believe to be the human rights agenda of its leaders, they often choose to disregard realities on the ground when it comes to the real burden endured by the average Arab citizen. This article is a sobering reminder that the BDS movement’s rhetoric is disconnected from the reality of the citizens of Jordan and potentially others in the Arab world, many of whom are in serious need of the economic benefits that could come from further cooperation with Israel.