Boycott and spillover

Does the warning against “provocations” only apply to Israel?

May 8, 2010 18:59
3 minute read.
Salam Fayyad.

fayyad lookin formal 311. (photo credit: AP)


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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas repeatedly warns against “provocations” that might derail the now kick-started proximity talks. Nothing that undermines confidence, he stresses, should be tolerated.

Yet does this only apply to Israel? Does a newly imposed boycott – of the sort never declared previously pre-negotiations – not qualify as a provocation, at the very least?

PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has not only imposed a boycott on any Israeli goods produced even meters beyond the Green Line, but he recently participated in a public burning of Israeli “settlements-made” products. Fayyad, feted worldwide as a moderate, himself tossed goods into the flames to the gleeful chants and applause of bystanders. Besides the incitement inherent in the “ceremony,” it was disturbingly evocative of the book-burnings of very dark past eras.

Is this the way a respectable peace-partner behaves? Does this encourage coexistence and win hearts and minds to the cause of compromise?

Additionally, both Abbas and Fayyad relentlessly engage in inimical campaigns abroad in favor of such boycotts in other countries. These aren’t moves that inspire confidence in the sincerity and goodwill of our reluctant proximity-talks interlocutors.

But it doesn’t end there. Any such maneuver is certain to spark a negative dynamic. In this case the boycott has spilled across the Green Line in two ways.

The first is the fact that, in some cases, non-settlement products are also suffering from the ban, incidentally underscoring the reality that it’s no simple matter even to pinpoint the origin of all components of given goods. Are these  innocent mix-ups? A blanket boycott was slapped against Israeli cellphone firms and communications paraphernalia not produced in any “settlement.” Interestingly, the son of a PA higher-up operates a competing venture; a dose of protectionism can be good for business.

The second spillover is of greater concern. Israeli Arabs have now joined the boycott, in a move that seems too closely orchestrated for comfort with the clarion call from Ramallah. Such coordination is chillingly reminiscent of the synchronization of the October 2000 riots with the start of the Yasser Arafat-fostered second intifada.

The within-Israel boycott, moreover, is patently illegal here. It can easily trigger violent intimidation. To understand the seriousness of this we need only imagine the indignant outcry had prominent Jewish politicians urged a boycott of all Israeli-Arab townships and everything they market. The hypothetical instigators of such anti-Arab boycotts would rapidly face trial and their initiative would be hurriedly quashed by the courts. Israel’s social fabric is anyway frayed. Tolerating communal boycotts inside the country threatens to rip that fabric to shreds.

Moreover, how can we complain against discriminatory boycotts overseas if their like are tolerated at home?

WHAT WAS initiated in Ramallah, though, is particularly outrageous. It’s also designed to keep local Arabs from working in the settlements on the pain of five-years imprisonment and hefty fines. The first to suffer would be Fayyad’s own population.

Fayyad should be reminded by our government that his new pet project directly violates the economic annex of the original Oslo Accord. Known as the “Paris Agreement,” the April 29, 1994, Annex IV of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement (or “Protocol on Economic Relations”) specifically forbids what Fayyad has launched.

That protocol clearly speaks of Israeli-controlled areas, and not only of within-Green-Line Israel. It forbids restrictions on agricultural and industrial products. Each side, the annex stipulates, “will do its best to avoid damage to the industry of the other side and will take into consideration the concerns of the other side in its industrial policy.”

Likewise the annex obliges both sides to “attempt to maintain the normality of movement of labor.”

So far Israel has kept officially mum on a series of flagrant violations including the recent public destruction of seven tons of Israeli watermelons, of detergents and Israeli-made plastics.

Under the Paris Agreement, Israel collects import customs for the PA. By continuing to remit the revenue, Israel unintentionally contributes to Fayyad’s “National Honor Fund,” established to underpin the boycott. Manufacturers Association President Shraga Brosh, hardly a right-winger, has proposed closing our ports to PA exports.

If the PA brazenly contravenes its undertakings – especially as negotiations get under way – for how long does it expect Israel to turn the other cheek?

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