The boycott movement, which aims to use economic pressure as a form of resistance against the Israeli aggression.
As the Israeli Occupation intensifies its military assault on the Gaza Strip, a wave of boycott campaigns against Israeli products and global corporations that back the Occupation has emerged on social media platforms and civil society organizations in the Gulf Arab states.
The boycott movement, which aims to use economic pressure as a form of resistance against the Israeli aggression, has also targeted products imported from countries that have normalized relations with the Israeli Occupation, especially the United Arab Emirates.
The boycotters have singled out Israeli goods and brands of multinational companies that have publicly expressed their support for the Israeli Occupation, such as McDonald’s, the fast-food giant, which announced on October 12 that it would offer “free meals” to the Israeli army through its branch in the Israeli Occupation.
The announcement sparked outrage among many Arab consumers and prompted McDonald’s branches in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon to issue statements distancing themselves from the Israeli branch and affirming their loyalty to their people and their homeland.
In Egypt, social media users launched a hashtag to promote Egyptian products as alternatives to the boycotted ones, and the Egyptian Bar Association joined the boycott and urged citizens not to buy from the pro-“Israel” companies.
The association also announced its plans to file lawsuits against the Israeli Occupation for its crimes against the Palestinian people in international courts and forums.
Osama Suleiman, a member of the General Secretariat of the Egyptian Lawyers Syndicate (Bar Association), told CNN Arabic that the board of directors of the Lawyers Syndicate called for boycotting products of companies supporting the Israeli Occupation in its war on Gaza, to confirm the support of the Egyptian people for their brothers in Palestine, and to denounce the brutal Israeli attacks.
He added that the role of the Lawyers Syndicate in supporting the Palestinian issue will not stop at organizing protest stands against “Israel” and calling for boycotting products of companies supporting it but extends to collecting donations from members of the general assembly of the syndicate, to prepare a fully equipped convoy to support relief efforts for citizens in Gaza.
Abdel-Halim Allam, head of the Egyptian Lawyers Syndicate, said in an official statement that he intends to “file lawsuits before courts and international forums against Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people.”
The activists have shared pictures of Israeli products with barcodes starting with 729, which indicate their origin, and urged people to avoid buying them.
They have also expanded their boycott to include many American and European products, such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Danone, Nestle, and Starbucks, among others.
These products are widely available in Arab countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, and Jordan.
The activists claim that these multinational companies have expressed or implied their support for the Israeli Occupation, either by investing in its economy, donating to its institutions, or lobbying for its interests.
However, some of the local agents of these companies have tried to counter the boycott by stating that their branches in the Arab countries are owned by locals and that the parent companies are publicly traded and have no political affiliations.
Campaigns have also targeted products imported from countries that act as intermediaries for Israeli goods exported to the region, especially the Gulf states. These countries are known as “the third party” or “transit oases” for Israeli goods.
The activists have also called for canceling the normalization agreements that the UAE and Bahrain signed with the Israeli Occupation in 2020 under U.S. auspices.
These agreements have opened up new horizons for trade and cooperation between the two sides, including Israeli cosmetics, foodstuffs, medicines, and electronic devices.
The UAE also hosted a prominent Israeli pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai. Bahrain has also established diplomatic and trade relations with “Israel” and signed several agreements in various fields.
The Israeli goods exported to Bahrain include food and agricultural products such as apples, oranges, and potatoes, as well as industrial products such as pumps, valves, and household appliances.
The UAE was the first Gulf state to sign a normalization agreement with the Israeli Occupation in August 2020, followed by Bahrain in September 2020. The other GCC countries, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait, have not signed normalization agreements with “Israel.”
According to economic expert Yasser Sadiq, who spoke to Al-Estiklal, all Israeli exports to the Gulf go through the UAE first and then to some GCC countries.
“Diamonds account for about 70% of the total volume of Israeli exports to the UAE, while the remaining 30% are distributed among gemstones, medicines, machinery and equipment, computers, software and cybersecurity applications, agricultural products, food products, chemicals, textiles, and clothing,” Sadiq said.
He added that it is expected that the volume of Emirati–Israeli trade will reach $3 billion by the end of this year and $3.5 billion in 2024. Compared to $2.5 billion in 2022 and only $1 billion in 2021.
The UAE has made it clear that it will not join any such boycott, citing its policy of separating politics from trade, since it and the Israeli Occupation signed a free trade agreement in 2020, which abolished customs on 96% of the goods exchanged between them.
There are also significant investments in the Israeli Occupation’s energy sector, owning 22% of the Tamar gas field, the largest in the eastern Mediterranean, and planning to buy 50% of NewMed, the main gas supplier in “Israel.” The UAE has also signed an energy-for-water swap agreement with “Israel” and Jordan.
“These economic ties have made the UAE a gateway for Israeli products to reach other Arab countries, especially in the Gulf region, where some consumers have launched campaigns to boycott Israeli and Emirati goods,” Sadiq noted.
“However, these campaigns are unlikely to have much impact on the trade volume between the UAE and the Israeli Occupation, which reached $1.2 billion in 2022,” he mentioned.
“The UAE has reached a point of no return in trade with the Israeli Occupation. The UAE’s trade with Israel poses a security risk for other Gulf countries, as Israeli technology and cybersecurity programs could breach their systems,” Sadiq concluded.