Despite the public perception that the Arab trade embargo of Israel is on the wane, the number of boycott-related requests made to US companies this year by Arab states has registered a sharp increase, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
According to material compiled by the US Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security, a copy of which was obtained by the Post, Arab states made a total of 201 boycott-related requests in all of 2005, or fewer than 17 per month.
By contrast, US firms have reported receiving 120 boycott-related requests in just the first six months of this year, for an average of 20 per month, marking an increase of nearly 20 percent over the rate recorded last year.
US law prohibits American companies from complying with the Arab boycott of Israel or from furnishing certain types of information in response to boycott-related requests from Arab states. US firms are also required to report any such requests made by Arab states to the US government.
Based on the material compiled by the Commerce Department, it appears that at least seven Arab countries, including ostensible US allies such as Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait and Iraq, are enforcing the terms of the Arab boycott more energetically this year than in 2005.
At the top of the list is the UAE, which made 40 boycott-related requests during the period of January to June, followed by Syria, with 20.
Among the illegal requests received by US firms were demands from the UAE and Saudi Arabia that they stop doing business with Israel. Others, such as Libya, asked US companies for "negative certificates of origin" affirming that various goods or parts did not originate in the Jewish state.
Eugene Cottilli, spokesman for the US Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security, told the Post that Washington would continue to enforce federal anti-boycott provisions "to the fullest extent of the law."
"We seek compliance with the anti-boycott regulations through education and consultation with the exporting public, and enforcement of violations when necessary," he said.
Asked what he thought lay behind the increase in boycott-related requests from Arab states, Cottilli declined to speculate as to the reason.