ZOA Condemns Saudi Violation Of Pledge To Drop Its Economic Boycott Of Israel
March 10, 2006

New York – The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has condemned the Saudi Arabian government for violating a pledge given to the Bush Administration last November to drop its economic boycott of Israel by arranging to host next week a major international conference aimed at promoting and perpetuating the boycott.

Saudi Arabia made this promise at a time when it was seeking to enter the World Trade Organization (WTO), which forbids economic boycotts of member states. On November 11, 2005, the WTO ruling general council voted to grant Saudi Arabia entry into the prestigious group, which aims to promote international free trade, after Riyadh agreed to scrap restrictions on doing business with Israel.

Christin Baker, the US Assistant Trade Representative for Public and Media Affairs, has stated that the US had “ensured that Saudi Arabia in its recent accession to the WTO has taken on all rights and obligations with respect to all WTO members, including Israel. Saudi Arabia did not invoke the non-application provisions of the WTO agreement with respect to any member,” meaning that it must treat all members equally, “including Israel.”

Likewise, in hearings last month before the US Senate Finance Committee, US Trade Representative Rob Portman insisted that the Saudis “have a responsibility to treat Israel as any other member of the WTO.” In separate hearings before the US House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee, Portman said, “We’ve received assurances from Saudi Arabia … They will abide by their WTO commitments.”

However, Saudi Arabia is not living up to its commitments. Last December, just weeks after being allowed into the WTO, Saudi officials were quoted in the Arab press as insisting that the boycott of Israel would continue. A few days ago, Ambassador Salem el-Honi, the High Commissioner of the Organization of the Islamic Conference’s (OIC) Islamic Office for the Boycott of Israel stated, “Next week, we will hold the ninth annual meeting for the boycott of Israel here in Jidda … All 57 OIC member states will attend, and we will discuss coordination among the various offices to strengthen the boycott.” Honi, a former Saudi diplomat, has headed the boycott office for the past four years.

An enquiry to the Hamad Abdul Aziz of the Saudi Customs Department at Jidda’s Islamic Seaport to ascertain if the kingdom now permits Israeli goods to enter the country met with the following response: “Absolutely not — if it is from Israel it is not allowed … I checked with my manager, and he said it is completely forbidden.” Saudi Arabia also continues to prohibit entry to foreign-made goods containing Israeli components (Jerusalem Post, March 7).

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The Saudi admission that they are intending to proceed with their annual conference on boycotting Israel removes any doubt about Saudi intentions. Saudi Arabia basically lied to the United States and the WTO in order to gain admission to the WTO. It is not actually willing to abide by the rules that govern the WTO or honor its pledges.

“For many years now, Saudi Arabia has been an impediment to Middle East peace. Not only has it applied no pressure on the Palestinians to make peace with Israel, it has actually broadcast telethons to raise money for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. It has also spent untold wealth on spreading the poisonous Islamist doctrines across the Muslim world and thus been a major promoter of anti-American sentiment and terrorism.

“The ZOA has long been troubled by Saudi Arabia’s failure to cooperate with the US in the war against Islamist terrorism and its continuing to fund and promote terrorist groups and boycott Israel, which is why we worked to help initiate the Saudi Arabia Accountability Act. The Act was introduced earlier this year in both the Senate and House by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) respectively and is designed to hold the Saudi regime accountable for its sponsoring of terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Wahhabi incitement in the U.S., and calls for greater Saudi cooperation with U.S. law investigations abroad.

“We urge the Bush Administration to work to secure the passage of the Saudi Arabia Accountability Act, just as it supported the passage of the Syria Accountability Act, which strongly promoted changes in the policies and conduct of Syria.”

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