Europe wants a piece of the pudding

Palestinian statehood and the ‘Milky protest’ topped European media on Israel last week.

People look at a light installation at the Old Royal Library in Berlin on October 10. (photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: REUTERS)
People look at a light installation at the Old Royal Library in Berlin on October 10.
Clamors for a Palestinian state circulated frequently in European newspapers last week, alongside the current social media stunner in Israel – the “Milky protest.”
Italian poet Alon Altaras even combined the two seemingly incompatible topics of pudding and Palestinian statehood in his blog linked to Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, suggesting that steps toward peace with Palestinians by the Israeli government would send a comforting message to the demonstrators.
As some readers may already know, the Facebook group “Moving to Berlin” grew rapidly after its creator uploaded a picture of an Israeli-manufactured Milky chocolate pudding from one of Berlin’s supermarkets, its price tag showing that it is three times more expensive in Israel than Germany. This set off what has now been established as the Milky protest, urging Israelis to emigrate to Berlin.
Dana Regev, social media editor for Deutsche Welle, pointed out that the protest is about more than the tasty treat – another photo was later published which garnered even more “likes” than the original pudding post, showing housing prices to be twice as high in Tel Aviv vis-à-vis notoriously cheap Berlin.
Marie de Vergès, a correspondent for French weekly news magazine L’Express, noted that the debate on living costs isn’t new in Israel; it was at the heart of protests that rocked the country in the summer of 2011.
“The Milky protest is a reminder that nothing has happened since then, and also raises questions on Israeli identity,” Vergès maintained.
Even the German Bild (with the sixth-largest circulation worldwide) featured a piece with the surprisingly provocative headline: “Should young Jews be allowed to travel to Berlin because our pudding is cheaper here?” The text itself was decisively more disarming in tone and content than in the headline, and summarized key points of the protest, such as the debate striking Israel’s most sensitive nerve. It referenced “the memory of the Shoah, the Holocaust, which has defined the identity of the country,” referring to emigration from Israel as well as the sensitive German-Jewish relationship.
Aside from the pudding, British newspaper The Guardian hosted an online video analysis which posed the question as to whether the Gaza conflict has led Israel’s traditional allies to change sides. The video featured clips of Gaza in ruins, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s harsh condemnation of the conflict, and the symbolic recognition of a Palestinian state by Sweden and Britain. “There is a sense in Europe and America that the balance of public opinion is shifting more broadly in favor of a Palestinian state,” Ian Black, The Guardian’s Middle East editor, said in the interview.
José Ignacio Torreblanca shared this notion in an article in the Spanish El País: “Housed in a false sense of security, Israel does not seem to perceive the change in the perception of public opinion in Europe, and its consequences. But the truth is that it is running out of time and if this continues, it will end up being an outcast, pariah and internationally isolated country.”
Altaras of Il Fatto Quotidiano wrote that Europe is losing patience with Israel. “The impatience in Europe could best be explained as a result of the strong European desire to support Abu Mazen [PA President Mahmoud Abbas], the Palestinian Authority and other moderate powers.” Taking a shot at Israel’s foreign policy, he added ironically that he was “impressed” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reaction to the Swedish and British recognition of the Palestinian state: “Israel’s best message to the world would be to define Israel’s ultimate borders.”
Israel moves closer to a new Gaza policy
Focus, Germany, October 13
In Focus, a weekly supplement to Der Spiegel, an article stated that Israeli security officials are starting to think about their strategy in anticipation of continued peace negotiations with Hamas, slated for this month.
But some experts warn that the proposed measures to end political and economic instability in Gaza will not be enough. The article included two testimonies to a changing political attitude in Israel. Eitan Diamond, director of the Israeli civil rights group Gisha (Hebrew for “Access”), and Dan Meridor, intelligence and atomic energy minister until 2013, recently criticized the blockade strategy. At the same time, some strict blockade regulations have already been changed: the age limit for Palestinians visiting relatives in the West Bank or Israel has been increased from six to 16 years; trucks with building materials are being allowed to pass at the Israeli border; and it may soon be permissible to sell fish and agricultural products in the markets, for the first time in seven years. According to Diamond, in order for Gaza to be able to support itself economically, Israel should facilitate travel for salesmen, and create educational institutions for craftsmen and academics in proximity to the Strip.
It is still called ‘Palestine’
El País, Spain, October 15
Luz Gómez García, a professor in Arab and Islamic studies at the University of Madrid, slammed Israel and Netanyahu in an op-ed. He wrote that a few major factors catapulted the prime minister into declaring war on Gaza: the kidnappings of the three yeshiva students; and the mobilization of and tension among Palestinians living in Israel. To support his point, Garciá describes the Prawer Plan, a development plan to relocate 40,000-70,000 Negev Beduin, as something that sparked “the largest campaign of mass arrests since the second intifada.” The third reason for the war, he wrote, were the mired peace talks prior to the conflict that didn’t leave Netanyahu in a strong position, as they strengthened the unity of the Palestinian government. A united Palestinian government in turn challenges the commonly used notion of “Palestine” as an unreliable business partner. “Netanyahu and the majority of Israelis refuse to face the future, while the government continues the old recipe: checkpoints, blockades, collective punishment, indiscriminate arrests, land confiscation,” Garciá wrote.
Guns are silent, war continues in shops
Helsingin Sanomat, Finland, October 15
An unusually extensive reportage was included in Finland’s main newspaper, which normally dedicates very few inches to Israel. Vesa Sirén covered Arabs boycotting Israeli products, and vice-versa. The author interviewed activists, beer manufactures, store owners and ordinary citizens in relation to broader movements such as BDS. Bará Osama and Amar Omar, Israeli-Arab university students boycotting Israeli products, said: “Buying Palestinian products is a way to support our people.” Their quest is difficult, as they need to walk for long stretches along the security barrier as well as pass checkpoints. Some shops in the West Bank have posters with labels such as, “In buying this product, 16 percent goes to the Israeli army.” Rami Levy, an Israeli supermarket chain owner with stores in the West Bank, says the SodaStream boycotts are “ridiculous.” He notes: “Half of my employees are Arab, and in the West Bank, they make up 70%… they live in areas [with high unemployment] and I offer a better salary than the Palestinian companies.
Should I withdraw from the West Bank and leave them in distress?” Palestinian activists believe that these companies only offer their people a “golden chain,” giving jobs to a few hundred but leaving millions without passports.