The boycott war

If Europe labels goods as “Israeli settlements produce,” it will become impossible for the companies to reach sales points abroad.

By GIULIO MEOTTI
June 26, 2012 22:35
4 minute read.
A protester calling for a boycott of Israel

Boycott Israel 521. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Europe’s boycott war against Israel, which has already proven very successful, will increase.

After South Africa instructed commercial importers not to use the label “Product of Israel” for goods manufactured in Judea and Samaria’s Jewish communities, the Danish government also announced the adoption of this policy. Then Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore proposed that the European Union consider banning products from the settlements. The move follows a British decision to allow retailers to distinguish whether goods are “Israeli settlement produce” or “Palestinian produce.”

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If Europe labels goods as “Israeli settlements produce,” it will become impossible for the Israeli companies to reach sales points abroad. Other European countries will adopt this racist policy, according to a decision taken in 2010 by the EU high court: the “disputed areas” are not part of Israel, so Israeli goods made there are subject to EU import duties. The historic ruling stemmed from a German case filed by Brita GmbH, a German company that imports drink-makers for sparkling water from Soda Club, an Israeli company based in Mishor Adumim, one of Israel’s industrial areas in the West Bank.

During the first intifada, then-industry, trade and labor minister Ariel Sharon said that there had been a “drastic reduction” in the consumption of Israeli-made goods from the territories during the violent uprising, after Western activists stepped up their campaign for a boycott.

Sales of Israeli agricultural products dropped by some 60 percent between 1987 and 1988 – from about 68,000 to 31,000 tons. Production of other goods sold to the territories has also declined, including textiles (an 18% decline), rubber and plastic (11%), non-metallic minerals (10%), clothing (8%) and quarry-stone (8%).

Since then, the boycott campaign flourished in the West. If yesterday the orders came from Damascus, where the Arab League headquartered the operations, today the boycott virus is spreading through Europe’s pension funds, supermarkets, commercial companies, labor unions, food co-ops and industrial firms.

Agrexco, Israel’s leading flower exporter, has declared bankruptcy, partially due to the boycott of its produce. More than 20 organizations in Europe in 13 countries endorsed a boycott of the company, partially owned by the Israeli government and which had farms in the Jordan Valley and in Tekoa, a settlement at the gates of the Judean desert.

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Norway’s oil fund withdrew its investment from Africa-Israel and Danya Cebus citing involvement in “settlement construction.” The Swedish co-op terminated all purchases of Soda carbonation devices.

Major Dutch pension fund Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn, which has investments totaling 97 billion euros, has divested from almost all the Israeli companies in its portfolio (banks, telecommunication companies, construction companies and Elbit Systems). The British supermarket chain Co-Operative Group approved a boycott of goods from Judea and Samaria. A large Swedish pension fund also divested from Elbit over the latter’s role in building Israel’s West Bank security fence.

Meanwhile, the Ethical Council of four Swedish buffer pension funds urged Motorola “to pull out of the Israeli-occupied territories in the West Bank” or face divestment. Norway’s governmental pension and Germany’s Deutsche Bank divested from Elbit. The flagship London outlet of Israeli company Ahava has been closed after years of protest.

The food manufacturing UK and Dutch-owned multinational Unilever withdraw from Ariel, Israel’s largest settlement. Unilever, which makes household staples such as the Sunsilk shampoo and Vaseline, sold its 51% stake in the Beigel’s settlements factories.

In the past, the Arab pressure to boycott has proven to be successful.

In 1999 Muslim and Arab states and groups promoted a boycott of Burger King to protest the chain’s opening of a restaurant in the Israeli settlement on the edge of Jerusalem, Ma’aleh Adumim. A few weeks later, Burger King Corp. announced it has canceled the controversial franchise in the territories.

The settlements’ products are targeted not just because these are political symbols, but also because Yesha and Golan businesses are an important part of the Israeli economy with firms such as Oppenheimer, Super Class and Shamir Salads, Golan Heights Dairies, Ahava and Hlavin, Beitili and Barkan Brackets.

Most settlers’ businesses are centered in Barkan (Ariel), Mishor Adumim (east of Jerusalem), Atarot (northern Jerusalem) and Ma’aleh Efraim (Jordan Valley).

Despite Barkan now being an industrial zone fully integrated with the Gush Dan economy, several companies, such as the Swedish firm Assa Abloy and the partly Dutchowned Barkan Wine Cellars, already pulled out of Ariel. Many other companies are trying to relocate within the boundaries of the Green Line.

But the settlements are just an excuse to destroy Israel’s economic life as such. The boycott campaign is not about Israel’s size – rather, it is about her very existence. The list of Israeli products targeted worldwide for the boycott reveals the hatred for the existence of the Jewish state in any borders. The boycott movement targets also Teva, a company established in Jerusalem 47 years before the re-establishment of Israel, only because today it is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

They target Delta Galil Industries, located in pre-1967 Israel, only because Delta Galil is Israel’s largest textile manufacturer. They target Sabra, only because Israel’s secondlargest food company supplies food for the IDF. They target Intel, because its first development center outside the US was in Israel and it employs thousands of Israelis.

The late, great historian Raul Hilberg explained that the economic boycott of the Jews in business and employment was the first step in the Holocaust. The same “Raus mit Uns” (out with us) boycott is now bleeding the State of Israel. The Nazi appeal “Kauft nicht bei Juden” (Don’t buy from Jews) is back.

The writer is an Italian journalist with Il Foglio.

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