AJC: New IOC President Should End Ties to Group Sponsoring Boycott of Israel

September 10, 2013 – Berlin -- AJC is calling on Thomas Bach, the newly elected president of the International Olympic Committee, to immediately resign as Chair of Ghorfa, the Arab-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Ghorfa has long been an advocate for an economic boycott of Israel.

“It betrays the principles of sportsmanship and fair play for the International Olympic Committee to be headed by someone who actively participates in ongoing Israel boycott campaign measures,” said AJC Berlin Director Deidre Berger. “Thomas Bach should resign as Chair of Ghorfa and champion the cause of fair play for Israel in international sports events.”

In the 1970s, Arab countries launched an unsuccessful attempt to boycott Israeli products by pressing importers to declare that products did not originate in Israel.Although the WTO forbids boycott practices, a number of Arab countries continue to conduct trade boycotts against Israel.

Ghorfa was set up in Germany in the 1970s by Arab countries to assist with their trade boycott campaign of Israel.  German trade regulations later outlawed the measures but Ghorfa’s ongoing activities with the Arab world remain under scrutiny.   

In response to a query by Viola von Cramon, a Green Member of the German Parliament, the German government confirmed on June 20, 2013, that Ghorfa continues to issue certificates of German origin, verifying that no product parts were produced in Israel, for trade with Arab countries.

The German government says officials from various ministries have spoken on a number of occasions with Ghorfa representatives, including during a high-level discussion last summer with Mr. Bach, about the continuing practice of issuing certificates of origin.

Bach’s candidacy came under considerable criticism in Germany in recent weeks as he received strong support from Arab leaders, including Kuwaiti Sheik Ahmad Al-Sabah, a member of the International Olympic Committee. His candidacy also was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich.

Bach, an Olympic gold fencing champion, who previously served as a Vice-President of the IOC, supported the IOC refusal to hold a minute of silence during the 2012 Summer Olympics on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the murder of nine Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics.The IOC refusal came after heavy pressure from Arab states, whose leaders have yet to denounce the 1972 terrorist act against Israelis.

“A German Olympic Chair who chiefly serves the interests of wealthy Arab potentates would lead to moral bankruptcy of the Olympic system,” said Berger. “In addition to resigning as Ghorfa chair, Thomas Bach should announce that a moment of silence for the murdered Israeli athletes will be held at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil.”