By RON FRIEDMAN
The National Union Party announced Thursday that it was creating a task force to battle the Palestinian and Arab Israeli boycott of settlement-made products.In preliminary meetings, suggestions were raised to induce local authorities to prefer Israeli-made products over Palestinian goods, compile a pool of out-of-work Israelis to replace Palestinians working in Israeli settlement factories, and examine legislative means of countering the economic effects of the boycott.“These actions come as a legitimate response to the Palestinian Authority’s boycott of Israeli products,” said NU MK Uri Ariel. “We will encourage Israeli work and support of Jewish-Israeli products at the expense of products created by the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians and Israeli Arabs will soon discover that their severe actions will have a boomerang effect.”The NU’s call to action coincided with the launch of a campaign by Israeli Arab leaders to join the Palestinians in a boycott of settlement-made goods.In an afternoon conference of Arab and Islamic non-governmental organizations, held in Nazareth, a list of 600 products manufactured in the West Bank settlements was compiled, and Arab leaders – including Muhammad Zidan, chairman of the Higher Follow-up Committee for the Arab Citizens of Israel – called on the Arab population to cease purchasing them.“We have made up and distributed a list of products that were manufactured in the settlements and another list of alternative products that people could purchase instead,” said Zidan.“We refuse to support the settlement economy,” he continued. “Purchasing settlement-made products prolongs the occupation. As citizens of Israel, we want to see the peace process go forward. We are hopeful that all Arabs, as well as any Jews that support the cause, will join the effort.”AdvertisementYa’acov Cohen, a bookkeeper for Abadi Bakery, which operates out of the Atarot Industrial Zone in the West Bank, downplayed the boycott threat.“The boycott won’t affect our business. If they don’t want to buy from us, so don’t buy from us. We don’t care,” he told The Jerusalem Post.Cohen said the bakery sold cookies to Palestinians through a private market, which did not represent a significant portion of the company’s business.The Abadi Bakery employs both Palestinian and Israeli workers. Given the option to hire more Israelis, Cohen said the bakery would jump at the chance.“The managers are not happy with the Palestinian workers, but Israelis don’t want to come to Atarot. They come work for a day or two, maybe a month, and then the leave. If they want to work in Atarot, we take them,” he said.Other Israeli companies manufacturing in the West Bank include Ahava Dead Sea products, Beigel & Beigel, Keter Plastics and Soda Club water products.Prof. Oz Almog, from the University of Haifa’s Israel Studies department, also downplayed the threat.“There is a wide division between the Arab Israeli political leadership and the Arab Israeli public. While the leaders tend to be militant and provocative, the public is actually very pragmatic,” said Almog.“The leadership does more harm than good,” he continued. “They constantly seek to radicalize the situation, and by doing so, they hurt the reputation of the vast majority of Arab Israelis who are, on the whole, moderate and content. Jewish Israelis hear what the leaders say and think it is representative of the whole population, when in actuality, it really isn’t.”Almog said the Israeli Arab public, apart from pockets of religious extremists, took very little heed of what the designated leadership said.“An Arab shopkeeper is unlikely to accept dictates on what he can sellin his store – not from his neighbors, and certainly not from theself-proclaimed leaders of the community. Maybe some on the fringeswill answer the call because of preaching they hear at the mosque, butoverall it will not be taken seriously,” he contended. “Arab shoppersare very rational in their consumption practices. Politics and religionsimply don’t factor in.”Almog noted that after the October 2000 uprising, in which IsraeliArabs took part in violent protests out of solidarity with thePalestinians’ second intifada, the Israeli Arab business sector hadsuffered large financial losses.“Jews simply stopped shopping in their stores in protest of theiractions. Now the Arabs are fearful of causing provocations,” he said.
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