Europe's systematic settlement boycott

The BDS movement is becoming more and more like the Nazis boycott of Jewish businesses.

PRO-PALESTINIAN protesters hold a banner 390 (photo credit: REUTERS)
PRO-PALESTINIAN protesters hold a banner 390
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Europe's boycott war against Israel has already proven to be very successful and will likely only get worse. 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 announced the adoption of this policy. Following that, Irish Foreign Minister, Eamon Gilmore, proposed that the EU 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." According to a decision taken in 2010 by the European Union high court, since the “disputed areas” are not part of Israel, goods that are manufactured 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 Israeli industrial areas in the West Bank.
During the first Intifada, after Western activists stepped up their campaign for a boycott, Israel’s then- industry minister Ariel Sharon said that there had been a “drastic reduction” in the consumption of Israeli-made goods from the territories. From 1987-88, sales of Israeli agricultural products dropped by some 60 percent from about 68,000 tons to 31,000 tons.
Production of other goods sold to the territories had also declined, including textiles (an 18 percent decline), rubber and plastic (11 percent), non-metallic minerals (10 percent), clothing (8 percent), and quarry-stone (8 percent). Since then, the boycott’s campaign flourished in the West. If yesterday the orders of boycott came from Damascus, where the Arab League headquartered the operation in the 80's, today the boycott virus is spreading through Europe’s pension funds, supermarkets, commercial companies, labor unions, food co-ops and industrial firms.
Partially due to the boycott of its produce, Israel’s leading flower exporter, Agrexco, declared bankruptcy. Agrexco, which is partially government owned, had farms in the Jordan Valley and in Tekoa, a settlement at the gates of the Judean desert. More than 20 organizations in 13 European countries endorsed the boycott. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement had picked up pace: Norway’s oil fund withdrew its investment from Africa-Israel and Danya Cebus citing involvement in “settlement construction.” The Swedish Coop 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 percent 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, Maaleh Adumim. A few weeks later, Burger King Corp. announced its cancellation of 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 and Ahvah, Super Class and Shamir Salads, Golan Heights Dairies, Ahava and Hlavin, Beitili and Barkan Brackets. Most settlers’ business is centered in Barkan (Ariel), Mishor Adumim (east of Jerusalem), Atarot (northern Jerusalem) and Ma’aleh Efraim (Jordan Valley). Despite the fact that Barkan is an industrial zone fully integrated with the Gush Dan economy, several companies, such as the Swedish firm Assa Abloy and the partly Dutch-owned Barkan Wine Cellars, pulled out of Ariel. Similarly, many other companies are trying to relocate into the boundaries of the Green Line.
If Europe labels the goods as “Israeli settlements produce,” it will become impossible for Israeli companies to reach sales points abroad and the boycott will strangle Israel's economic life. 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 the author of The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism and a columnist for Yedioth Ahronoth and Israelnationalnews. His new book about Israel and the Vatican will be released later this year.