Jerusalem Post Editorial: Contagious discrimination

Meretz is again sponsoring a bill to label all products made beyond the Green Line.

WOMEN HOLD pins that advocate a boycott against Israel (photo credit: REUTERS)
WOMEN HOLD pins that advocate a boycott against Israel
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Meretz is again sponsoring a bill to label all products made beyond the Green Line. This is geared to facilitate boycotts within Israel proper – inside the 1949 armistice line that reflected the situation at the end of the War of Independence and which has since been elevated to an internationally hallowed border demarcation.
This isn’t Meretz’s first effort to spawn a local boycott.
The initiative predated the second intifada and has been assiduously reintroduced ever since – most notably in 2003 and most recently in 2012.
The legislation’s aim is to clearly declare on all consumer goods packaging precisely where the manufacturing process took place and thereby foil any attempt at camouflage.
For more than a decade Israel has marked all products that it exports with a code that allows customs officials in Europe to know “the point of origin.” The marking allows the custom officials to know the geographic location where the product was produced, grown or manufactured.
That’s because products that are produced, grown or manufactured over the Green Line are not part of Israel’s free trade understanding with the EU.
Some industrialists provide the address of their within the- Green Line headquarters but not of their beyond-the- Green Line factory. Meretz intends to expose what it sees as their deceit. In practice, though, the Meretz scheme cannot but make it easier for overseas BDS groups to blackball Israeli firms (although Israeli anti-settlement activists anyhow supply this information to boycotters abroad).
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Additionally, Meretz charges that some within-Green Line firms incorporate settlement-made components in their output without saying so.
The bill has no chance of passing but the recurrent efforts to assist boycott ringleaders in other lands is disquieting.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On has unequivocally rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s appeal that her faction withdraw its initiative.
Still clinging to the notion that if Israel withdrew from all of the settlements, there would be peace in our time, Gal-On does not believe that solidarity on part of all segments of Israeli opinion is called for especially amid relentless campaigns abroad to turn Israel into the world’s whipping boy.
Apparently, Meretz’s objective is to make the position of settlers all the more untenable and the odds against their survival all the more stacked. Meretz wants the fate of the settlements sealed not via our democratic process but via strangulation. In other words, one subdivision of Israeli society – of which Meretz disapproves – is to be ostracized.
This is something unheard of within pluralist societies.
That it should emanate from respectable politicians, self-professed champions of civil liberties, is all the more disturbing. Worse yet, the move goes unchallenged inside Meretz.
We know where politics of delegitimization start. It is hard to fathom where they will end, though it is not that difficult to imagine where they could lead. Pushing anyway beleaguered settlers to the wall will beget desperate extremism – the very sort Meretz rails against.
Discrimination is contagious. The principle that one group within our society can be singled out, identified and targeted, renders all others vulnerable. In a polarized society that has lost tolerance for others, no one is immune.
The same logic that attempts to single out settlements, can be applied elsewhere. What if there may be those who clamor for clear and bold identification of all products made in Israel’s Arab sector? Moreover, those who claim to care deeply for Palestinian have-nots should remember that many Israeli industrial zones outside the Green Line offer gainful employment to local Arabs. Most such production complexes were not the brainchild of wild-eyed zealots but rather of assorted past Israeli governments, many expressly wishing to advance peace through economic cooperation.
Some beyond-the-Green Line factories are located inside Jerusalem or in the capital’s metropolitan area. Are they to be shunned as well? Or is anyone considering secondary selection among “settler” plants depending on their distance from the 1949 armistice line? This is unthinkable as well as unworkable.