Citizen Action Monitor

Defying embargo, Palestinians finally begin official internal boycott of Israeli products – a first in 20 years

Israeli embargo forces humiliated Palestinians to buy almost $5bn worth of goods and services yearly from their enemy

No 1376 Posted by fw, June 21, 2015

“A small demonstration in the Palestinian city of Ramallah in March 2015 might not have seemed like much – with a symbolic mound of Israeli-sourced groceries being dumped in the street – but it marked the moment when Palestinians began to officially boycott Israeli products for the first time in two decades…. BDS has always appreciated the importance of Palestinians themselves participating in any embargo…[but] their capacity to take part has long since been limited by the very occupation they want brought to an end.”Aljazeera, People and Power

The following 25-minute embedded Aljazeera video tells a humiliating story rarely mentioned in Western network news – that of a subjugated people having no other choice but to purchase products from their occupiers.

In the repost below, the embedded video follows a brief introduction, and the filmmaker’s viewpoint follows the video. Alternatively, to access the original video and accompanying text, click on the following linked title.

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Boycott Israel by Aljazeera, People and Power, April 1, 2015

Can an international boycott of Israeli goods and services help end its occupation of Palestinian lands?

As Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands grinds on, economics and commerce are becoming new battle lines, an embargo being the latest weapon of resistance for Gaza and the West Bank.

A small demonstration in the Palestinian city of Ramallah in March 2015 might not have seemed like much – with a symbolic mound of Israeli-sourced groceries being dumped in the street – but it marked the moment when Palestinians began to officially boycott Israeli products for the first time in two decades.

The idea of a boycott is not new, of course. For over ten years activists around the world have been urging an embargo of Israeli and foreign companies which profit from the occupation. But the ferocity of last summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza, which attracted widespread international condemnation, has helped galvanise the movement known as Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). The BDS campaign is internationally supported and wants to emulate the success of the comprehensive international embargo that helped end apartheid in South Africa.

For the campaign to have that degree of impact both supporters and sceptics in the international community have to be convinced that collective economic pressure will bring results. With the Israelis so implacable that clearly is not going to happen overnight, but BDS has always appreciated the importance of Palestinians themselves participating in any embargo; even if – as filmmakers Mariam Shahin and George Azar found out for People & Power – their capacity to take part has long since been limited by the very occupation they want brought to an end.

 

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Filmmaker’s Viewpoint by Mariam Shahin

One of the peculiar things about visiting Palestine is how many Israeli items one finds in the supermarkets and on the shelves and racks of shops all across the West Bank and Gaza. It is surprising only because the “peace process” that began in the early 1990s never took off.

Invasions, bombardments, urban warfare and siege actually intensified in the years after those now distant discussions began, instead of the withdrawal-to-defined borders, independent statehood and a partnership in a peace of equals that many were hoping for. Under those circumstances, you might think, the last products that Palestinians would want to buy would be Israeli ones.

In truth, Palestinian commerce had long been hostage to the occupier – a satellite that for 50 years has been forced to revolve around Israel’s larger and more advanced economy. Palestine imports nearly $5bn worth of goods and services from Israel annually, which remarkably makes it the second biggest purchaser of Israeli products in the world.

Few Palestinians are happy with this arrangement, but there is little they can do about it on their own, being locked into a relationship of almost total economic dependency by the Paris Protocols, an often forgotten sub-section of the Oslo Agreements of the mid-1990s.

The terms of the protocols are stark: where any external trade is permitted, with countries such as Jordan and Turkey, it is strictly limited and controlled. The kind of free trade seen in the rest of the world is a chimera here.

Never mind that it would mean saving money, gaining greater independence and opening up the Palestinian economy to a wider range of ideas and services, or that Israel would have to stop treating the Palestinian markets as “dumping” grounds for their grade B and C and “almost out of date” products – or even that open markets would allow for greater choice, competition and accountability to the consumers. Such things are not to be … or not yet at least.

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