Arab leaders in Israel are preparing a boycott of settlement-made products, following Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s call for such a ban by West Bank Arabs.
Analysis: Arab-Israeli boycott puts social cohesion at risk
Starting on Thursday, Israeli-Arab retailers will be urged to place lists of settlement-made items in their establishments, notifying shoppers which products to avoid. Among the 1,000 companies slated to be boycotted are Ahava Dead Sea health products, Beigel & Beigel pretzels, Super Drink soft drinks and Openheimer chocolates.
“We are launching a campaign across the entire Arab sector to boycott all goods manufactured in the West Bank settlements,” said Mansour Dahamshy, chairman of the Kafr Kana public committee. “We mean to show solidarity with the Palestinian people and wage battle against the settlements and the occupation.”
Representatives of dozens of community-based organizations and NGOs are scheduled to attend a conference in Nazareth on Thursday, where the campaign will be formally launched.
Dahamshy said the campaign was a grassroots initiative, but that the organizers hope to add politicians and public officials to the effort in the future.
“As part of the Palestinian people, it is our role to assist in the international efforts to boycott settlement-made products. We aim to free the West Bank of settlements, and one way of doing that is by harming their economy,” he said.
“All production in the West Bank should be owned and operated by Palestinians, not Israelis or settlers. We need to help the Palestinian economy to sustain itself and not leave it dependent on settler-owned companies. It is also in Israel’s interest to strengthen the Palestinian people and give them hope for a better future. As it stands, the settlers take advantage of the Palestinian people, whom they hate, and do nothing to improve their condition.”
One organization taking part in the campaign is the Monitoring Committee of the Israeli Arab Leadership, an extra-parliamentary umbrella organization made up of Arab heads of local authorities and major Arab organizations and parties.
Muhammad Zidan, the committee’s chairman, told The Jerusalem Post
in an interview that the campaign was a forceful reiteration of the committee’s ideals.
“Boycotting settlement products has been part of our agenda since 1998, but today we are acting more intensively. The leadership of the Palestinian Authority has called for the boycott, and similar campaigns are gaining traction in Europe. As part of our commitment to a sovereign Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, we choose to help the Palestinian economy by forcing out the settlers and ending the occupation,” he said.
Zidan cited a study conducted by the Amar Society, which estimated that Israel’s Arab population contributed between NIS 400 million and NIS 600m. to the settlement economy.
“That is a substantial amount. If all Arabs and others who support our cause will join in the boycott, we can help bring our vision of an independent Palestinian state closer,” he said.
According to the campaign organizers, the list of settlement-produced goods includes more than 1,000 items.
“The list includes everything from fruits and vegetables to computers. We will place the list in shops and place stickers requesting that people abstain from purchasing settlement-made goods. Arab shopkeepers will be ashamed to sell the goods anymore after that,” Dahamshy said.
Dani Dayan, chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, declared, “This is not an autonomous decision by the Israeli Arabs. They are following a decision by [PA Prime Minister] Salam Fayyad, who burned Israeli [settlement] products in [the West Bank village of] Sulfit. What we are seeing here is a complete identification, and not for the first time, by the Arab population of Israel with the Palestinian Authority.”
Such boycotts are a violation of the 1994 Paris agreement between Israel and the PLO, said Dayan, calling on the government to take the PA’s “incitement” and “economic warfare” seriously and to compensate settlers for financial damage that could be caused by such a boycott, using money that Israel transfers to the PA every month.
“Israel has a duty to fight this politically motivated boycott against a sector of its citizenship,” Dayan said.
A boycott against the settlements is a boycott against Israel, he asserted. He rejected any attempts to separate the two.
“In Arab eyes, [the existence of] Israel is under debate, so exactly the same logic applies,” Dayan said.
Right-wing MKs also said it was impossible to differentiate between the PA’s boycott of goods manufactured in the West Bank and a complete boycott of Israeli goods. The lawmakers reinforced statements that they made during a meeting of the Knesset’s Economic Affairs committee earlier this week.
“We do not differentiate between a boycott of goods from Judea and
Samaria and a boycott of any other Israeli goods,” said Deputy Foreign
Minister Danny Ayalon (Israel Beiteinu), who participated in Sunday’s
committee meeting. “The boycott is in violation of signed
Israel-Palestinian agreements. Not only does the Israeli public feel
that the boycott is psychologically the same, it is also operatively a
boycott against Israel because it impacts the entire Israeli economy.”
MK Uri Ariel (National Union), who pushed for the initial committee
hearing on the impact of the boycott, said he, too, did not feel there
should be any differentiation between a boycott of West Bank industries
and of the Israeli economy as a whole.
Ariel’s spokesman, Hagi Schori, said Ariel believed the intent was to
expand the boycott to all Israeli goods, and emphasized that it was
impossible to differentiate between companies that operated in the West
Bank but were based within the pre-1967 boundaries, and companies that
based their production in the West Bank.Rebecca Anna Stoil contributed to this report.