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(Editor’s Note:   Jews living in Palestine have faced boycotts since 1922.   This was led by the antisemitic Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who was expelled by the British in 1937 and spent much of WW2 in Germany were he made an anti-Jewish pact with Hitler.  One of the Great ‘Ifs’ of history is if the Arabs and Jews had cooperated. His opposition was formalised by the Arab League in 1945. Its effectiveness has varied over time, for example .the Japanese  Subaru was the only car available in Israel, others boycotting Israel to serve the Arab market. The Boycott, Diversion and Sanctions BDS is the boycott organisation today.)


US Congressional Research Service, Martin A. Weiss August 25, 2017

The Arab League, an umbrella organization comprising 22 Middle Eastern and African countries

and entities, has maintained an official boycott of Israeli companies and Israeli-made goods since

the founding of Israel in 1948. The boycott is administered by the Damascus-based Central

Boycott Office, a specialized bureau of the Arab League.

The boycott has three tiers.

Since the boycott is sporadically applied and ambiguously enforced, its impact, measured by capital or revenue denied to Israel by companies adhering to the boycott, is difficult to measure.

The effect of the primary boycott appears limited since intra-regional trade and investment are small. Enforcement of the secondary and tertiary boycotts has decreased over time, reducing their effect. Thus, it appears that since intra-regional trade is small, and that the secondary and tertiary boycotts are not aggressively enforced, the boycott may not currently have an extensive effect on the Israeli economy.

Despite the lack of economic impact on either Israeli or Arab economies, the boycott remains of strong symbolic importance to all parties. The U.S. government has often been at the forefront of international efforts to end the boycott and its enforcement. Despite U.S. efforts, however, many

Arab League countries continue to support the boycott’s enforcement. U.S. legislative action related to the boycott dates from 1959 and includes multiple statutory provisions expressing U.S. opposition to the boycott, usually in foreign assistance legislation. In 1977, Congress passed laws making it illegal for U.S. companies to cooperate with the boycott and authorizing the imposition of civil and criminal penalties against U.S. violators. U.S. companies are required to report to the Department of Commerce any requests to comply with the Arab League Boycott.

This report provides background information on the boycott and U.S. efforts to end its enforcement. More information on Israel is contained in CRS Report R44281, Israel and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, coordinated by Jim Zanotti.


Headquarters of the Arab League, Cairo..The Arab League boycott of Israel is a strategy adopted by the Arab League and its member states to boycott economic and other relations between Arabs and the Arab states and Israel and specifically stopping all trade with Israel which adds to Israel's economic and military strength.[1] The boycott was later extended to boycott companies which trade with Israe

An official organized boycott of the Yishuv (pre-state Jewish community in Palestine) was adopted by the Arab League in December 1945, and persisted against Israel after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.[2] The boycott was designed to weaken Jewish industry in Palestine and to deter Jewish immigration to the region.[3] Although the boycott undoubtedly hurt Israel to some extent, it failed to cripple the country economically. Israel managed to build one of the strongest economies in the region, and managed to evade the boycott and clandestinely trade with the Arab and Muslim world through a number of countermeasures. The implementation of the boycott has varied over time among member states, and has since waned, with some states no longer applying the boycott.

Egypt (1979), the Palestinian Authority (1993), and Jordan (1994) signed peace treaties or agreements that ended their participation in the boycott of Israel. Mauritania, which never applied the boycott, established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1999. Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia do not enforce the boycott.[4] In 1994, following the Oslo Peace Accords, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) states, ended their participation in the Arab boycott against Israel.[5] The move prompted a surge of investment in Israel, and resulted in the initiation of joint cooperation projects between Israel and Arab countries.[5] In 1996, the GCC states recognized that total elimination of the boycott is a necessary step for peace and economic development in the region.[4]

While in its heyday, the Arab boycott had a moderate negative impact on Israel's economy and development, but also had significant negative effect on economic welfare in participating Arab countries, as the result of a deterioration in the foreign direct investment climate in the Arab world, and reduction in the volume of trade.[5] In present days, the boycott is sporadically applied and ambiguously enforced, and therefore, no longer has significant effect on the Israeli or Arab economies.[4] The boycott also negatively impacted other countries— particularly the United States during the Arab Oil Embargo in the 1970s.


As part of the intercommunal conflict in Mandatory Palestine, some Arab leaders sought to orchestrate anti-Jewish boycotts from 1922.[6] The original boycott forswore with any Jewish-owned business operating in Mandatory Palestine. Palestinian Arabs "who were found to have broken the boycott ... were physically attacked by their brethren and their merchandise damaged" when Palestinian Arabs rioted in Jerusalem in 1929.[7] Another, stricter boycott was imposed on Jewish businesses in following the riots that called on all of the Arabs in the region to abide by its terms. The Arab Executive Committee of the Syrian-Palestinian Congress called for a boycott of Jewish businesses in 1933 and in 1934, the Arab Labor Federation conducted a boycott as well as an organized picketing of Jewish businesses. In 1936, the Palestinian Arab leadership called on another boycott and threatened those who did not respect the boycott with violence, however, this boycott was unsuccessful as Jewish lawyers, physicians, and hospitals were too heavily integrated into Palestinian society.[6]


The Arab League was formed on 22 March 1945 with six members. On 2 December 1945, it issued its first formal declaration of an economic boycott of the Jewish community of Palestine. The declaration urged both Arab United Nations member states and Arab states which had not yet obtained UN membership to prohibit the products and usage of the products of Jewish industry in Palestine, effective January 1, 1946. The declaration, contained in Arab League Resolution 16, stated:

Products of Palestinian Jews are to be considered undesirable in Arab countries. They should be prohibited and refused as long as their production in Palestine might lead to the realization of Zionist political aims [8]

The Arab League began to create the apparatus for implementing the resolution in February the same year. The first body established for this purpose was the Permanent Boycott Committee, based in Cairo, Egypt. On 12 June the Boycott Committee adopted a recommendation in Arab League Resolution 70, which called upon the Arab states to set up national boycott offices.

Later measures adopted by the Committee included requiring those selling goods to Arab states to provide a certificate of origin to prove the goods were not manufactured by Palestinian Jews, the allocation of 50% of the value of goods confiscated in this manner to customs officials, the prohibition by Arabs of the use of Jewish banks, insurance companies, contractors, and transport in Palestine. Member states of the Arab League began implementing these resolutions through legal and administrative measures. After the Partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states was introduced at the United Nations on 29 November 1947, efforts to apply the boycott were intensified. However, the boycott was unsuccessful, as established in the first annual report of the Boycott Committee, and trade between Palestine (the vast majority by Jews) and Arab States neighboring Palestine continued to thrive.

Following the Israeli declaration of independence on 14 May 1948, the Permanent Boycott Committee ceased to function upon the outbreak of war between Israel and surrounding Arab States on 15 May 1948, and the Arab League repeated its calls for a ban on all financial and commercial transactions with Palestinian Jews, boycotting the newly formed State of Israel. The Arab League cut off postal, telegraphic, and radio communications with Israel, and Arab States began to impose a land, sea, and air blockade on the fledgling state. Israeli goods, shipped through Alexandria, Port Suez and Port Said, were confiscated by Egyptian inspectors. A prize court established in Alexandria in 1949 authorized the seizure of cargo ships destined for Israel. In 1950, regulations were promulgated to allow the search of ships and aircraft and the seizure of Israeli-bound goods found within.


The Arab-Israeli war ended on 10 March 1949 with a decisive Israeli victory. On 6 February 1950, King Farouk of Egypt issued a decree under which manifests and cargoes of ships could be searched to ensure that no "war contraband" was present on vessels bound directly or indirectly for Israel. War contraband included arms, munitions, and war material. However, article 10 additionally stipulated that other goods were to be considered "contraband" and were to be treated as war material — ships, chemicals, motor vehicles, money, gold, and fuel of any kind. At the time 90% of Israeli oil was supplied by Iran and imported through the Straits of Tiran.[9] To prevent Iranian oil from entering Israel, Egypt blockaded the Straits of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba. Oil tankers proceeding through the Suez Canal were required to submit documentation to guarantee none of their cargo would arrive at an Israeli port. To enforce the policy of denying strategic goods to Israel, the decree authorized the use of force against any ship attempting to avoid search, including live gunfire, to make it submit to inspection. If a ship were to subsequently allow a search and reveal that they were not carrying any "contraband", the ship would be allowed to continue its voyage. However, if the ship resisted a search by force, it would be considered to have violated its neutrality. For this "hostile act", ships were to be seized and their cargo impounded even if they were not found to possess any "contraband". Ships found or suspected to transgress the Egyptian shipping practices delineated in this decree were blacklisted by Egypt and denied free use of the Suez Canal.[10] The decree of February 1950 signaled a shift in the policy of the Arab League. The boycott's immediate purpose had originally been to prevent direct Arab trade with Israel (called a primary boycott). With this decree the boycott was expanded to the interruption of international trade with Israel (a secondary boycott). On 8 April 1950, the Arab League Council embraced this shift, approving a decision by its political committee to the effect that all ships carrying goods or immigrants to Israel were to be blacklisted.

In the summer of 1950, the governments of Britain, Norway, and the United States lodged a complaint with Egypt about some of their tankers being blacklisted and barred from using the Suez Canal. On 1 September 1951, after ships destined for Eilat had been stopped at the entrance of the Gulf of Aqaba, Israel went to the United Nations, demanding Egypt terminate its restrictions on navigation through international waterways in adherence to the 1949 Armistice and to Security Council resolutions prohibiting further hostilities between the Arab states and Israel. The United Nations Security Council issued a resolution which condemned the Egyptian practice as an "abuse of the exercise of the right of visit, search and seizure." This resolution was ignored by Egypt.99999

On 19 May 1951, the Arab League Council passed Resolution 357, which established a successor to the defunct Permanent Boycott Committee, the Central Boycott Office (CBO), with its headquarters in Damascus. Branch offices of the Damascus CBO were established in each of the Arab League member states. To direct the CBO the resolution created the position of Boycott Commissioner and provided for the appointment of his deputies, who were to function as liaison officers accredited by each member state of the Arab League. The primary task of the Damascus CBO was to coordinate the boycott with its affiliated offices, and to report regularly to Arab League Council. Biannual meetings were to be held each year after 1951 to coordinate boycott policies and to compile blacklists of individuals and firms which had violated the boycott. Each member state of the Arab League would enforce the resolution through legal and administrative measures. Finally, the resolution stipulated that "participation in regional conferences organized on the initiative of one country or by an international organization could not be attended if Israel were also invited", expanding upon its 1950 decree that such a conference would not be organized by an Arab state.[11]

Boycotts were almost exclusively applied against specific individuals and firms in third countries, and very rarely against the countries themselves, excluding a few short-lived boycotts of countries in the early 1950s. A plan was made by the Arab League in 1952 to boycott the Federal Republic of Germany after it signed the Reparations Agreement with Israel, which would provide Israel with restitution for the slave labor of Jews during the Holocaust and compensate for losses in Jewish livelihood and property that was stolen due to Nazi persecution and genocide. The Arab League strongly opposed the agreement,[12] but its threats to boycott West Germany were never carried out due to economic considerations—the Arab League would be impacted far more negatively by losing trade with West Germany than vice versa. Similarly, at its second meeting on the boycott in 1953, the Arab League proposed a wide range of restrictions on trade with Cyprus, which had become a hub of illicit Arab-Israeli trade. The restrictions were greatly relaxed due to international criticism of the boycott of an entire state not involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict, but they were not completely eliminated.

The boycott of third parties (secondary boycott) originally applied solely to funds and strategic commodities. However, on 28 November 1953, Egypt increased its disruption of Israeli maritime trade by expanding its list of "contraband" to include "foodstuffs and all other commodities likely to strengthen the potential of the Zionists in Palestine in any way whatsoever."[10]

By 1953 the Arab boycott was a well-established feature of international trade relations, and becoming more brazen. In early 1953 the first reports were released about Arab attempts to make American and European airlines boycott Israel by refusing to service Israelis or land in Israel, or at a minimum to not invest in Israel. This tertiary boycott marked another fundamental shift in boycott policy wherein Arab states would pressure third party states to agree to boycott Israel. However, these rudimentary efforts were unsuccessful and the airline boycotts remained isolated to the Arab world.

On 11 December 1954 the Arab League Council passed Resolution 849, approving the Unified Law on the Boycott of Israel. The provisions of this resolution, implemented in legislation by most member states over the following year, formalized the application of the boycott in the Arab States uniformly. The resolution contained new recommendations prohibiting Arab entities and individuals from dealing with agencies of persons working for Israel, and with foreign companies and organizations with interests, agencies, or branches in Israel. The export of Arab goods to countries to be re-exported to Israel was criminalized with a penalty of large fines and hard labor.


In the mid-1950s boycott activities intensified, and gained a new and highly powerful ally — the Soviet Union. During Israel's early years it was seen by the USSR as a potential ally due to the significant socialist aspirations advocated by its founders and applied in its conception. The Soviet Union was one of the first countries to recognize Israel de jure upon its establishment in 1948. However, as Israel's democratic nature became evident and its ties with Western states were solidified, the Soviet Union would view Israel as an enemy in the West vs. East dichotomy of the Cold War. Instead, the Soviet Union would form an alliance with the revolutionary Arab regimes, Egypt, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, and later in the decade Iraq, united in anti-American and anti-Israel political objectives. The clout of the Soviet Union gave the boycott new international legitimacy and guaranteed anti-boycott resolutions a veto at the UN Security Council. The tertiary boycott, formerly ignored as an affront to international trade relations, became enforceable through the sheer political and economic power of the Soviet Union. In 1958, Air France capitulated to Arab League demands after being denied overflight and landing rights in Arab states for eighteen months due to its alleged investment in Israeli development projects.

With the success of the first tertiary boycott the Arab League became increasingly demanding of uninvolved states to adhere to its boycott of Israel. In 1958 the boycott was expanded to prohibit all goods exported from a third state identical to goods imported by the state from Israel, including goods produced with Israeli raw materials or components. In the same year, ships visiting an Arab port and an Israeli port within the same trip were blacklisted.


The Arab boycott of Israel escalated with the 1973 oil crisis, when the members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC, consisting of the Arab members of OPEC plus Egypt and Syria) announced an oil embargo in October 1973, following United States supply of arms to Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the first time the United States directly supported Israel in a war. The OAPEC embargo targeted Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States.[13] OAPEC threatened to cut oil production 5% monthly "until the Israeli forces are completely evacuated from all the Arab territories occupied in the June 1967 war...." The embargo lasted for about five months before it was lifted in March 1974.


Following the Oslo Peace Accords, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) states, ended their participation in the Arab boycott against Israel, and declared that total elimination of the boycott is a necessary step for peace and economic development in the region.

A number of companies found ways of bypassing the boycott and managed to trade with both Israel and the Arab world. For example, some firms that did business with Arab countries officially complied with the boycott, but in practice subcontracted their trade with Israel to companies already blacklisted by the Arab states, while others did business with Israel through divisions or affiliates whose links to the company were disguised. Others strove to cultivate good personal relationships with Arab leaders, who would allow them to trade with Israel without economic repercussions in their own countries as a favor. Some firms placed on the blacklist managed to lobby or buy their way off it.[14]

Israel responded to the boycott by creating its own blacklist of firms that respected the boycott, and circulated them around the world to encourage Jewish-owned businesses to avoid dealing with them. In addition, Israel supporters in some Western countries managed to get anti-boycott laws passed, but they typically went unenforced everywhere except the United States.[14] In 1977 the United States Congress passed a law that President Jimmy Carter signed, which made it a criminal offense to adhere to the boycott and imposed fines on American companies that were found to be complying with it. For the surveillance after the implementation of this law, an office called the "Office of Antiboycott Compliance" was opened in the US Department of Commerce. Despite the fines, there were some American companies (like McDonald's) which preferred to pay the fines and continue boycotting Israel rather than lose their business with the Arab world.

Israel also took a series of steps to evade the embargo and clandestinely trade with the Arab world. Front companies in third countries were set up, which imported goods, then re-exported them to Arab countries with false labels and certificates of origin. In other cases, foreign companies would purchase Israeli technology and materials, use them to assemble completed products, and export them to Arab countries while concealing this fact from their customers. Arrangements with American companies were worked out where the American companies would buy goods from Israeli affiliates and export them as American-made goods. Israeli ships were re-flagged as ships of other nations and provided with faked bills of landing so they could directly export goods to the Arab and Muslim world. Greece and Cyprus were particularly popular hubs for smuggling Israeli goods into the Arab world due to their location, multilateral economic connections, large merchant fleets, and Cyprus' corporate and bank secrecy laws.[14]

Egypt was the first nation to abandon boycott, doing so in 1980 after signing a peace treaty with Israel the previous year. After more or less consistently adhering to the practice of seizing cargo bound for Israel since 1950, the Straights of Tiran and the Gulf of Aqaba were opened to Israeli trade and Israeli cargo went unmolested for the first time in decades. Afterwards, Egypt became a convenient destination to smuggle Israeli goods into the rest of the Arab world, as Israeli goods could be legally imported into Egypt and relabeled as Egyptian for trade with other Arab countries, although the treaty led to other Arab countries becoming more suspicious of Egyptian products.[14] By the late 1980s, Israel's counter-measures against the boycott were proving a success, and the Boycott Office estimated that between $750 million to $1 billion worth of Israeli goods, or about 10% of Israel's exports at the time, were reaching Arab markets per year.[14]

In 1995, a year after it signed a peace treaty with Israel, Jordan lifted its boycott. The Palestinian Authority likewise agreed not to abide by the boycott that same year. In 1994 several of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf abandoned the secondary and tertiary boycotts. The period also saw "low-level diplomatic relations" between Israel and Morocco, Mauritania, Oman, and Qatar.[6] In 1994, following the Oslo Peace Accords, the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC) states, ended their participation in the Arab boycott against Israel.[5] The move prompted a surge of investment in Israel, and resulted in the initiation of joint cooperation projects between Israel and Arab countries.[5] In 1996, the GCC states recognized that total elimination of the boycott is a necessary step for peace and economic development in the region.[4] Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia do not enforce the boycott. Mauritania, which never applied the boycott, established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1999.[4] Saudi Arabia had pledged to end its economic boycott as a condition for membership in the World Trade Organization but came back on the promise following its acceptance into the organization in December 11, 2005.[15]

As the boycott was relaxed (or rather, not as stringently enforced) starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many companies which previously stayed out of the Israeli market had entered it, e.g. McDonald's and Nestlé. In 1985, the ban was lifted on Ford, which had been in place since the company had opened an assembly plant in Israel, and Colgate-Palmolive, although five other companies were added to the blacklist.[16] Toyota began selling cars in Israel in 1991, although it claimed that it had never complied with the boycott, arguing that it did not have the resources to sell cars in the country.[17]


Today, most Arab states, Syria being the exception, no longer attempt to enforce the secondary or tertiary boycotts. Syria, Lebanon, and Iran (though not an Arab state) are the only states which actively enforce the primary boycott. The Central Boycott Office has become obsolete. With the vast majority of Arab states benefiting from trade with Israel, any "boycott" has become symbolic in nature, limited to bureaucratic slights such as passport restrictions.


The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was founded in 2005 in an attempt to increase economic and political pressure on Israel and advocates a total, international boycott of Israeli products, divestment of investments in Israel and sanctions. Besides anti-Israel economic measures, the BDS movement also strives to disrupt cultural exchanges and business involving Israel, Israelis and businesses which deal with them. In addition, sporting teams from various Arab states continue to boycott international matches when they are drawn against an Israeli team, choosing instead to forfeit the match.


Today, 31 United Nations member states do not recognise the State of Israel, including 18 of the 21 UN members in the Arab League: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen; and a further 10 members of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Chad, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Mali, Niger, and Pakistan.[18] In 2002, the Arab League proposed recognition of Israel by Arab countries as part of the resolution of the Palestine-Israel conflict in the Arab Peace Initiative.

The passports of some countries are not valid for travel to Israel. These countries include Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan.

16 countries do not accept Israeli passports[19][20][21][22][23][24][25][26][27][28][29] and eight of these also do not accept passports of other countries whose holder has an Israeli visa endorsed in it.[22][26] The stamp may be a visa stamp, or a stamp on entry or departure. It can also include a stamp of another country which indicates that the person has entered Israel. For example, if an Egyptian departure stamp is used in any passport at the Taba Crossing, that is an indication that the person entered Israel.

Arab League Boycott
of Israel (1)

Arab League Boycott
of Israel (2)