Boycotting the settlements is justified

Labeling products from the settlements should have been an obvious move a long time ago, as a guide to the intelligent and involved consumer.

By Gideon Levy

I don’t buy merchandise that comes from the settlements and I never will. To my way of thinking, those are stolen goods and, like any other goods that have been stolen, I try not to buy them. Now perhaps the South Africans and the Danes also will not buy them; meanwhile their governments have merely requested that products from the settlements be marked so as not to deceive their customers. Just as there was no need in the past to label merchandise from the British colonies as British products, so there is no need to mark products from Israel’s colonies as Israeli. Anyone who wants to support the Israeli colonial enterprise can buy them; those who are opposed can boycott them. As simple as that, and as necessary.

Israel, which boycotts Turkey’s beaches and Hamas, should have been the first to understand that. Instead we have heard heart-rending cries and angry rebukes. Not yet to the Danes, who are nice, but to the South Africans, who are less nice in our eyes. The decision was labeled “a step with racist characteristics” by the Foreign Ministry spokesman, referring to the country that waged the most courageous war against racism in the history of mankind.

Yes, the new South Africa can teach Israel a lesson in the war against racism; and yes, Israel can teach the world a lesson in racism. It has once again been proven that Israel’s chutzpah knows no bounds: Israel, of all countries, accuses South Africa, of all countries, of being racist. Is there anything more ridiculous?

It was not by chance that the South African ambassador to Israel, Ismail Coovadia, seemed both amused and embarrassed at a reception for Cameroon’s independence day, when the foreign ministry launched a ridiculous search for him, according to reports, after he failed to respond to its summons for what was described in advance as a rebuke. It is not difficult to imagine how many such reprimands Israeli ambassadors in different parts of the world deserve to be summoned to, if labeling produce from the settlements is a reason for rebuke and accusations of racism on the part of the Israeli government, which is so purely non-racist.

Labeling products from the settlements should have been an obvious move a long time ago, as a guide to the intelligent and involved consumer. A boycott of settlement products should also have taken place a long time ago, as a compass for law-abiding citizens. We are not referring only to a political or moral position; this is a question of upholding international law. A product produced in the settlements is an illegal product, just like the settlements themselves. Just as there is a growing public of consumers in the world who will not buy products made in sweatshops in southeast Asia nor “blood diamonds” from Africa because of their source and the conditions under which they are produced, so it can be anticipated that there are consumers who will boycott products produced in occupied territory through the exploitation of cheap Palestinian manpower whose opportunities to work are in the settlements.

The self-righteous, sanctimonious protests of Israeli factory-owners and farmers in the occupied territories who say they care so much about their Palestinian workers, who claim a boycott could endanger their employees’ sources of income, are a cynical attempt to mislead people. Had the settlements and the occupying forces been removed, and the lands on which these enterprises arose been returned to their owners, they would have had much more dignified sources of income.

A boycott of goods from the settlements is a justified boycott, and there is no other way to define it. Labeling these products is the minimum demand that every government in the world should make, as a service to its citizens.

Moreover, it is actually a lack of such labeling that can lead to a wholesale boycott of all blue-and-white products. After all, how can a Danish or South African consumer know whether the avocado he is buying did not grow on Palestinian soil?

Those who want to buy illegal products should buy Bagel & Bagel items, toilets made by Lipsky, cosmetics manufactured by Ahava, mushrooms from Tekoa, or wine from the Psagot or Golan Heights wineries. Those who want to bolster the settlement enterprise and reinforce it can buy these products and enjoy them.

But those who want to make a minimal act of protest against this sinful enterprise are invited to boycott it and refrain from buying from it. For my part, I shall continue to read the fine print on every product. The citizens of the world also have this right.

This right? This duty.

Artikkeli on julkaistu alunperin israelilaisen Haaretz-lehden internet-sivuilla 24.5.2012


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