Friday, February 03, 2006

Israel makes case for boycott of itself

The Israeli peace bloc, Gush Shalom, issued this warning today, February 3, as an advertisement, in Hebrew and English, in the daily Ha'aretz:

The Palestinians
Have elected Hamas
Because of their life
In poverty and despair.

If Israel and the world

Cut off the transfer of money
To the Palestinians
The poverty will grow
-And so will support for Hamas.

The stoppage of the

Tax and customs money
That Israel has collected
For the Palestinians
Is nothing but simple robbery.

It will push them

Into the arms of Iran.

ISRAELI actions against the Palestinians are hitting ordinary working people, the sick, and children, under cover of the "war on terror" backed by Britain, the European Union and of course, the United States.

In doing so, the Israeli authorities are making a case for boycott of Israel itself.

It is reported that the Palestinian Authority is unable to pay its 137,000 workers their monthly salary, in part because Israel has refused to hand over $45m (£25m) in monthly tax revenues because of the Hamas victory, but also because foreign donors are withholding some aid over the issue of the PA's financial mismanagement.,,1701335,00.html

The way the British media reports on Palestine much of the time you would think the Palestinian people were all either terrorists or mendicants, content to wait for foreign aid. Right-wing Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn called them "the Pikies of the Middle East", using an offensive racist term for Gypsies to smear and insult another people. (no wonder Nick Griffin of the British National Party says Littlejohn is his favorite columnist).

It is true that Palestinians who were driven from their homeland in 1948 have been forced into bitter existence as refugees. But wherever they have had the chance, whether in exile or still on their land, they have striven for work and education, to raise themselves from poverty and build a better life. Much of this effort is constantly wrecked by Israeli land and water grabbing, bulldozers, economic closures, settler or military vandalism. (Not that the Arab states , who owe much of their oil wealth to Palestinian and Yemeni workers, are exempt from blame).

In the Gaza strip, where many of the people were refugees from Majdal (Ashkelon) and Jaffa, Israel took scarce fertile land and water resources for settlements. The occupation also restricted how far Palestinian fishing boats could go. Thousands of Palestinians from Gaza used to enter Israel as day labourers, forbidden to stay, till this was restricted. Palestinians in Gaza have developed their own farming and citriculture, but their produce faces obstacles.

Despite efforts by the Palestinian Authority to prevent trouble from Gaza, Israeli forces have used rumoured attacks as pretext to interfere with the area's economic life again. Tewfik Abu Khoussa, a Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman said Israeli closure of border crossings had prevented Palestinian produce going out. "Yesterday, tomatoes, strawberries and other produce from the Gaza strip was thrown in the streets, and was not allowed to be exported. We hope that the Israeli government reconsider these measures, because they are punishment on the citizens".

A UN report said closure had cost the Palestinian economy about £4 million and was leading to shortages of basic foods and health supplies. More than 100 tons of strawberries, flowers and other perishables had spoiled or were spoiling, and international relief supplies had been held up.

Maybe it does not bother Israeli policy makers and "security" chochoms
(wise men, in sarcastic sense ) that frustrating normal economic life, destroying people's work, depriving them of their livelihoods, and their children of food and health supplies, is a good way of fostering desperation, extremism and hatred. Apparently Israeli intelligence was taken by suprise by the Hamas victory. This is intelligence?!

But it might occur to them that it makes a good case for an economic boycott of Israel. Much better than the lame "it worked with South Africa" stuff we hear, which suggests an intectually lazy failure to address the specifics of Israel-Palestine oppression, and an exagerrated notion of the importance of Western liberals as opposed to South African black workers' struggles in bringing Apartheid down.

Put simply, we have a quid pro quo - until Israel stops playing beggar my neighbour, and allows the Palestinian economy to flourish, even giving help to compensate for past injustices, people outside can do without Israeli products. It may not be the best way, or nice, but after all a few kids giving out leaflets outside a store is nothing like as offensive as a military checkpoint stopping people going to work or shop, or produce being dumped instead of going to market.

Just when the news is about the economic war on Palestine, here's a straw in the opposite wind. Agrexco is Israel's largest exporter of agricultural produce into the European Union, and it is 50% Israeli state owned. It imports produce from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. ( Many Israeli peaceniks have been waging their own boycott of the settlements, but here in Europe such produce has come in labelled as
"Israel" produce and even enjoyed EU trade privileges).

On Thursday 26th January, people cheered and embraced at Uxbridge magistrates court after a district judge ruled that seven pro-Palestinian protesters who blockaded a depot belonging to Agrexco UK, had no case to answer and the case was dismissed. At one point the campaigners had chained and padlocked Agrexco's gates. But charges of Aggravated Trespass and Failure to Leave Land were dismissed after District Judge Barnes sitting in Uxbridge Magistrates Court, found that the evidence against the defendants was too tenuous to justify continuing with a trial.

On November 11, 2004 the seven succeeded in shutting down Agrexco's UK distribution centre for over eight hours, blocking both the entrance and exit to the depot near Swallowfield Way, Hayes, Middlesex, and reportedly losing the company over £100,000 in profit. Amos Orr, General Manager of Agrexco UK, said its exports from Israel and the occupied territories amount to some $700 million a year out of a total of $880 million which is the annual total of all Israeli agricultural exports.

He admitted Agrexco imports between 60-70% of all produce that is grown on settlements in the occupied territories. The protestors wanted to draw attention to Agrexco's complicity in the occupation. Supporters had collected documentary evidence of Agrexco's business operations in the Jordon Valley, to argue the company was in breach of UK and international law.

As it turned out, this defence did not need to be argued, because reference to UK Land Registry documents showed that Agrexco UK had built both their entrance and exit gates on other peoples land and had no legal right to ask the protesters to leave. It also became clear that Agrexco could not prove they were trading lawfully, being unable to show UK import licences for the stocks of strawberries that were ready to deliver on the day of the protest action.

Chief Inspector Cumber of Hayes Police who acted as police commander at the scene of the blockade invoked powers to arrest protesters who refused to leave land, but had only taken the word of Mr Orr when investigating who owned the land on which the protesters had set up the blockade. (Bit like the way Israel claims the right to erect its "security" Wall on Palestinian land!)

The campaign to Boycott Agrexco continues. A website that will gather information disclosed through Uxbridge case will be launched soon.. The defendants will call for further direct action against Agrexco.

Such campaigns may lack the resources of states and governments. But they have the Israeli government and its supporters worried. And whatever other governments may do to assist the Israeli state against the Palestinians, they cannot make people buy stuff they decide they don't want.

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At 10:44 PM, Blogger DesertPeace said...

Boycotts brought down terrorist regemes in many places, Chile and South Africa come to mind... Israel could be the next one. Not only could the Palestinians gain by this proposed boycott, so could the Israeli people as a whole.
Thanks for posting this Charlie.


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