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“Boycotting Israel and its people has only strengthened both, while doing great harm to Arab countries, and not least to the Palestinians. For the sake of the region, it is long past time to move forward to a postboycott era.
That’s where the Arab Council for Regional Integration aims to go. The council formed this week in London and is made up of 32 civic actors from 15 Arab countries, including us. The council isn’t a government organization—members include heads of NGOs, prominent media figures, Muslim clerics, and even musicians. The only political figures who attended were a former Kuwaiti information minister and an Egyptian legislator who also heads a political party there. Regardless of profession, those gathered espoused a spirit of partnership that knows no borders and repudiates the culture of exclusion and demonization that has wreaked havoc across the Arab world. First on our list is the generations-old boycott of Israel and Israelis.
The boycott evolved in stages. In the mid-20th century, Arab elites enacted exclusionary policies against 900,000 Jews indigenous to Arab lands, culminating in their mass dispossession and forced migration. In the 1940s, the internal crackdown developed into an intergovernmental Arab effort to target the young country to which most of these Jews fled—Israel—through political, cultural and economic isolation. The goal was to uproot them and their European Jewish brethren from the area. Next came a ban on all civil engagement with Israelis, even and especially in countries nominally at peace with Israel.”
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