A Boycott of “Settlements” or A Boycott of Its Products?
For decades, Israel has been creating new facts on the ground and imposing them in the form of colonial settlement building which is making the proposed Palestinian State an impossible task to achieve. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics – basing its report on Israeli authoritative information – confirmed that in 2009 alone a total of 144 Israeli colonies/ “settlements” had been built in the occupied Palestinian lands including 26 in Jerusalem of which 16 were added to “Greater Jerusalem”. In the governorate of Ramallah and Al Beerih, the number has grown to 24 colonies. Nearly 500 thousand Israelis are living now in the “settlements” with 52 percent living in Jerusalem itself. Needless to emphasize that “settlements” violate the International Law and the 4th Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War, adopted in 1949.
Earlier this year, a campaign was launched by the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) calling on the Palestinian population to boycott products manufactured in the illegal “settlements” and promote and purchase those locally-produced. Such a move raised an important question: Was the campaign arranged as a result of a careful plan aiming to achieve political goals? No one wishes to see it as a swift reaction that will dissipate with time adding more confusion around the issue. How can Palestinians work in the construction of these colonial settlements and boycott their products at the same time? Indeed, we call for creating job opportunities for those workers before embarking on a boycott of the colonial settlements’ products. This very serious issue has been turned into a public relations campaign aimed to contain a heated Palestinian public resentment. The (P.A.) is trying to show that its campaign to confront the “settlement” activity cancer should not be hampered by the facts surrounding the number of Palestinian workers employed in the construction of these colonies. Sometimes we are told that the workers’ number totals 35 thousand and sometimes it goes down (according to other sources) to 18 thousand, which is yet a huge number when compared to the small population size of the West Bank. Instead of boycotting these products, isn’t it more advantageous to the Palestinian cause to specify their exact number of these workers and find them jobs in the Palestinian market? It is important to point out that the Jewish “settlements” have 15 industrial zones which contain close to 3000 Israeli enterprises in the fields of industry, agriculture and commerce. Hundreds of their products are being sold to Palestinians inside Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian territories. Goods, worth almost 600 million dollars are being sold in Israeli Arab areas and others worth around 800 million shekel are sold to Palestinians in the West Bank. These products are being falsely labeled as Israeli products produced in Israel, not in the “settlements”, to conceal their origin from Palestinian and other Arab and international consumers. The financial success of Israeli colonies means longer longevity for them and for the Israeli occupation. It is a well-known fact that these “settlements” are established through direct financial aid from the various Israeli governments. But no government in the history of Israel has extended funds such as those offered by the current extreme right-wing Israeli government who continues to build more “settlements”. This government was formed with the full support of the Israeli settlers’ representatives in the Israeli parliament (the Knesset) and others who strongly endorse colonial building. How can one negotiate with a government that is adamant on constructing more such colonial “settlements” and refuses to halt this internationally illegal activity, even as peace negotiations are pursued. What is needed is a boycott of the present Israeli government that insists on building more “settlements” which will make the establishment of a Palestinian state an impossible task, instead of a boycott of their products. Big empty slogans will not bring Palestinian workers the jobs that will make them quit those in the “settlements”. They should not be left to choose either to starve or be forced to work in their enemy’s colonies. A carefully prepared plan has to be developed to provide them with alternative jobs so that they can abandon their present shameful jobs in the “settlements” and, with other Palestinians, refrain from purchasing their products.
The continuation of normal relations with the current Israeli government that is determined to build more “settlements”/ colonies to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, despite the initiation of direct peace negotiations, is beyond comprehension. It might be true that atrocities of the “settlers” have in a way led to more support for Palestinian rights and largely weakened Israel’s legal status at international level, yet it is also true that the religious ultra-nationalist zeal of the Zionist State’s extreme right has markedly increased. According to the Israeli press, such lawlessness within Israel’s state of affairs is greatly increasing the power of fanatic Jewish settlers and threatening the authority of the state of Israel. What is urgently needed is that the Israeli colonial/ “settlement” activity should be a major issue on the agenda of the peace talks on which their progress hinges. The date set by Israel for an end to a “settlement freeze” on Sept. 26, 2010, has passed without any renewal of the “moratorium” despite pleas/ pressures from the US administration, all European governments, and many other actors in the international community. Such an attitude by the present extreme-right government of Israel has dealt a major blow to the already fragile Middle East peace process.