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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Dubai ports firm enforces boycott of Israel

The Jerusalem Post is reporting this morning that the Dubai firm that is at the center of a controversy over the running of six (and possibly as many as twenty-one) United States ports is a subsidiary of a company that enforces the Arab boycott against Israel.

The firm, Dubai Ports World, is seeking control over six major US ports, including those in New York, Miami, Philadelphia and Baltimore. It is entirely owned by the Government of Dubai via a holding company called the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCZC), which consists of the Dubai Port Authority, the Dubai Customs Department and the Jebel Ali Free Zone Area.

"Yes, of course the boycott is still in place and is still enforced," Muhammad Rashid a-Din, a staff member of the Dubai Customs Department's Office for the Boycott of Israel, told the Post in a telephone interview.

"If a product contained even some components that were made in Israel, and you wanted to import it to Dubai, it would be a problem," he said.

A-Din noted that while the head office for the anti-Israel boycott sits in Damascus, he and his fellow staff members are paid employees of the Dubai Customs Department, which is a division of the PCZC, the same Dubai government-owned entity that runs Dubai Ports World.

Moreover, the Post found that the website for Dubai's Jebel Ali Free Zone Area, which is also part of the PCZC, advises importers that they will need to comply with the terms of the boycott.

In a section entitled "Frequently Asked Questions", the site lists six documents that are required in order to clear an item through the Dubai Customs Department. One of them, called a "Certificate of Origin," "is used by customs to confirm the country of origin and needs to be seen by the office which ensures any trade boycotts are enforced," according to the website.

A-Din of the Israel boycott office confirmed that his office examines certificates of origin as a means of verifying whether a product originated in the Jewish state.

On at least three separate occasions last year, the Post has learned, companies were fined by the US government's Office of Anti-boycott Compliance, an arm of the Commerce Department, on charges connected to boycott-related requests they had received from the Government of Dubai.

I tried to access the Dubai Ports Authority web site, but was unable to do so. It is possible that access from Israel is (now) blocked.

The Post also reports this morning that the Arab boycott isn't what it used to be.

...while some Arab ports will not accept goods marked "Made in Israel," if you take off the sticker and send it through another country, the deal is done.

"Besides Syria, the Arab boycott is now just lip service," said Doron Peskin, head of research at InfoProd, a consulting firm for foreign and Israeli companies specializing in trade to Arab states.

In its heyday, the Damascus headquarters of the Office of the Arab Boycott (OAB) blacklisted 8,500 foreign companies for buying products from Israeli companies, stopping in Haifa port, having a branch in Israel, or any other number of moves which Israel could benefit from economically.

The OAB went even further: the secondary boycott prohibited foreign firms from operating in Arab States if they had trade or commercial dealings with Israel, and the tertiary boycott prohibited foreign firms from acquiring technology from, and establishing partnerships or joint ventures with blacklisted foreign companies.

Today, however, even the most hardline Arab countries are officially dropping the official primary level of the boycott to join trade organizations and agreements.

The most significant "fall" was of Saudi Arabia, which agreed last September to drop the primary boycott of Israel to join the WTO. On Sunday December 11, the world's biggest oil exporter will become the 149th WTO member. Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are also WTO members.

"Today the Arab boycott is all bark and no bite," said Danny Halperin, who founded and headed the Israeli Authority Against Economic Warfare (IAAEW). "We succeeded."

UPDATE 7:20 PM

Hat tip: Little Green Footballs

LGF'er Ploome Hineni directed me to a cached page from DP World.

That led me here. If you scroll down to

How easy is it to clear goods through customs

you come to

Certificate of Origin - Produced by the original exporter and legalised by a recognised authority in the country of export. This is used by customs to confirm the country of origin and equally needs to be seen by the office which ensures any trade boycotts are enforced.


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