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Three Meetings

Three potentially crucial meetings are taking place simultaneously this week: in Cairo, in Damascus and in Berlin.

Each place highly significant in the Israeli (Jewish) psyche. Each host city highly appropriate for the given subject.

In Damascus representatives of 15 Arab nations have gathered to re-strengthen their economic boycott of Israel. It is reckoned that Israel loses some $3 billion in trade annually because of Arab pressure on foreign businesses not to trade with Israel.

While the boycott lost much of its force and success during the 1990s, the new wave of violence that erupted in 2000 has given fresh impetus to this anti-Israeli force.

Over the years some of the world’s economic giants have fallen prey to the economic ‘sense’ of the boycott. With an Arab population of 250 million and just six million Israeli citizens, pressure from the Office of the Arab Boycott is bound to influence some. Pepsi Cola could not be found in Israeli stores for years. For decades Japanese cars were never seen on the roads of Israel.

Today though, most household brand names are to be found in Israel, much to the chagrin of the office.

Just down the Mediterranean in Egypt some 20 Israeli Arabs are being hosted at a meeting of the Arab League.

They are explaining their lives in the Jewish state: the injustices and hardships that they face, often on a daily basis. They are indeed entitled to detail their grievances against a country that is desperately trying to cling on to its Jewish majority.

What is perplexing though, is why it has taken the Arab League so long to get round to holding such a discussion.

The lack of equality in Israel is no secret and is not something new. So why has the Arab world remained silent for so long?

It is understood the league is offering the Israeli Arabs observer status at the pan-Arab organization. So far, the Israelis have rejected the idea.

Delegates from around the world are arriving in Berlin, Germany to participate in a conference on the increase in global anti-Semitism.

Not only is this an increasingly problematic trend in the West, but it continues to be so here in the Middle East.

Daily newspapers in Arab capitals are full of Nazi-like caricatures of hook-nosed, evil Jews, who are hell-bent on ruling the world and clearly control the White House. With that sort of indoctrination it is hardly surprising that the mass protests against Israel and the West throughout the Arab world often adopt an anti-Semitic flavor.

The truth is I am not sure there is a real link between all three conferences but perhaps collectively they should be seen as a red light for the Israeli state. The future of the region is clearly dependent on economic progress and integration – the current impasse must be overcome. Israel must find a way to place its Arab minority on an equal footing with the country’s Jewish population, or else it will face serious internal unrest. Israel will continue to face the ugliness of anti-Semitism, no matter what it does.