After wins abroad, BDS conference in West Bank sees local traction

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Tamam Abdul, 60, sells Israeli goods in her West Bank supermarket, but she would rather not. “All of the products we receive are Israeli, unfortunately,” she said Saturday outside of Ramallah at a fifth conference about the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, otherwise known by the initials BDS.

Antendee Sana Sharif from Yatta, a town south from Hebron, said, “BDS is a tremendous effort, despite that few people are involved in it. I suggest that it should be part of our civic education.”

“My suggestion is that you could conduct campaigns that raise campaigns of children in school not to buy Israeli products,” Janna Jihad, 10, said in a plenary session.

Ways of increasing boycotts of Israeli goods were on the minds of many.

Over the past few years BDS has proliferated abroad and as a debate inside of Israel. Some multi-national corporations have severed ties with Israel, mainline Christian churches have divested their portfolios citing the plight of Palestinian Christians, and a slew of university campuses and academic association have endorsed BDS. A major sign of BDS’s impact came last month at an Israeli conference on how to deal with it, in which the campaign was described as looming crisis by leading members of the Israel’s government.

“We must distinguish between criticism and delegitimization when we deal with the BDS,” Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin said in an address to the forum, which was hosted by the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot. Rivlin went on: “The claims of the proponents of BDS and the organization’s criticism, is based on a hatred and enmity of Israel, including anti-Semitic elements with regard to the right of Jews to return to their homeland.”

But there is one corner of the world where BDS has only recently gained traction and political leaders still veer from addressing the topic directly, or send mixed signals. Surprisingly it is in the West Bank, the occupied Palestinian territory, where Israeli products are abundant in shops, although many want them gone.

“We have a captive market,” said Mahmoud Nawajaa, the general coordinator of the BDS National Committee (BNC). He explained there are some products in the West Bank where there simply is no alternative other than an Israeli provider. Medication, water and electricity are prime examples.

“Then something ignited in 2014 in the West Bank during the war in Gaza. People started seeing boycott as a tool that they can use to pressure Israel,” Nawajaa said.  At this time restaurants and markets chose to de-shelve Israeli products in an uncoordinated effort and groups of teenagers posted placards in West Bank cities calling on more to rid their stores of Israeli imports. The products were replaced with Palestinian brands.

The pressure has trickled up to the top tier of the Palestinian government in the West Bank.

An effort is underway to expand awareness of BDS in classrooms. Starting this year, the Palestinian Ministry of Education will train 600 teachers on BDS in order to launch curriculums in 25 schools. The program will instruct on the basics—BDS is a grassroots initiative brought about by Palestinian civil society organizations in 2005 who appealed to their supporters abroad to boycott, divest or sanction economic ties with Israel until three core principles are met: the end of the occupation over territories conquered in 1967, equality among all citizens of Israel, and the right of return of Palestinian refugees whose numbers near seven million, primarily scattered across the Middle East.

In 2014 the Palestinian government passed a law banning the sale of products made in Israeli settlements. Two weeks ago, the Palestinian Authority renewed their efforts and called for a boycott of Israeli dairy and meats in response to Israel turning back trucks loaded with similar Palestinian products from the West Bank seeking entry into Jerusalem in March of this year.

But the measures are viewed as half-steps by seasoned BDS activists. Both resolutions were passed without consultation of local BDS organizers (who call for a full boycott of Israeli goods, not only settlement products) and no enforcement mechanism was in place. Moreover, the Palestinian government shares economic ties with Israel. While on the political front there is no movement, with back and forth unanswered invitations to resume talks cancelled in 2014, the two continue meeting on joint industrial ventures across the West Bank in three manufacturing zones.

“We are not surprised,” Nawajaa said of the government boycott, “because we at least when something happens, they adopt our tactics. At least they started to think about boycott as a tactic of struggle and this is good.”

Others were frustrated with what they see as conflicting messages from the Palestinian government, where figureheads are seen both endorsing the boycotts and expanding business efforts with Israeli companies at the same time.

A sore point that was raised repeatedly in the conference is that the head distributor for the Israeli dairy brand Tnuva also serves as the mayor of Beit Jala, a Palestinian town outside of Bethlehem.

“I think the moral responsibility requires that he either stops being their agent—which I prefer—or resigns from his position,” said Mustafa Barghouti, a conference presenter and head of the Palestine National Initiative.

“People are fed up with some elites in Palestinian society,” said Omar Barghouti, a leading BDS organizer and conference founder (and a distant relation to Mustafa Barghouti).

“The criticism of the PA [Palestinian Authority], the president of the PA, the government was really strong,” Omar Barghouti  added of the conference participants, “that reflects at the popular level people are sick and tired, and want to see their supposed representatives do something about actually ending Israel’s injustices rather than moving from one negotiation to another.”

BDS secured one of its biggest boosts, Barghouti said, last fall when the French company Veolia sold its shares of a light rail that runs through East and West Jerusalem. Barghouti estimated the service provider lost nearly $20 billion in contracts due to the BDS campaign launched in 2009 asking businesses and governments to hold off on contracts with Veolia until it disposed of its five-percent ownership of the tram.

Since then, more companies are re-thinking their investments in Israel.

“By this standard if it takes seven years to get one company out you need seven-thousand years to end the complicity of companies, but it doesn’t work like this,” Barghouti went on. “It’s a domino effect.”

“Over the past ten years we have shifted over symbolic and cultural boycotts if you will, to effecting the economy of the regime, of the occupation, of apartheid. So several multinationals are pulling out already,” Barghouti concluded. “We—it’s also Israel—are both starting to see the ‘South Africa’ moment.”

About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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20 Responses

  1. echinococcus
    April 10, 2016, 10:35 pm

    It would be absurd to ask the Palestinians, who either within or without the green line are entirely at the mercy of the occupiers, to boycott Zionist entity products.
    Inviting a population without disposable income beyond the very basics of life to bypass an absolute tyrant of an occupier that controls all supplies anywhere on the territory is just as absurd, to refer to a similar situation, as asking the barely surviving people under German occupation to forgo anything produced anywhere in occupied Europe.

    Even if such a boycott would be possible it is only symbolic: what hits hard the Zionists is not the economic loss by itself –the US taxpayer and other dark sources probably compensate for that kind of loss. It is the message they deliver that the Zionists are losing the European and Atlantic “Western” connection, most of all manifest in academic and sports boycott.

    That is precisely why limiting our boycott in the West to the post-67 occupation is downright criminal. Moustafa Barghouti correctly said “if you want to only boycott an egg, we want you to boycott that one egg”, but that only applies to people (generally lib-Zionists) profiting from only post-67 area boycott. Not to normal peop… pardon, other than Zionists.

    • Neil Schipper
      April 11, 2016, 3:39 am

      .. a population without disposable income beyond the very basics of life ..
      .. as absurd, to refer to a similar situation, as asking the barely surviving people under German occupation ..

      Palestine is not even in the bottom 50 economies in both of the World Bank measures of Gross national income per capita (2014); it ranks 149 by the “Atlas method” & 158 by “PPP”, both, out of 213 economies.

      By both measures, it surpasses Nicaragua, Honduras, Bangladesh, Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Cambodia, Yemen, Afghanistan.

      By the first measure it surpasses Pakistan, falling by the second measure just short of that nuclear power.

      By the first measure only, it surpasses Egypt (not occupied, no war for 40+ years), Bolivia, Vietnam, India.

      PDF Gross national income per capita 2014, Atlas method and PPP

      • Marnie
        April 11, 2016, 11:04 am

        Hey Mr. Schipper –
        So you say Palestine isn’t “even” at the bottom. Thanks for the information wrt poverty throughout the world but, like the sign reads “Mondoweiss – war of ideas in the middle east” and your whataboutery is not only a fail, but I actually feel sorry for you that you felt it was necessary to see who out-poverties whom by putting up numbers. That’s really pathetic.

      • Mooser
        April 11, 2016, 11:55 am

        “Palestine is not even in the bottom 50 economies in both of the World Bank measures”

        Are they supposed to be?

        Shorter “Neil Schipper”: “The Palestinians aren’t suffering enough!”

        “Neil”, that’s got to be the most disgusting use of whataboutery I’ve ever seen.

        Don’t forget, Neil, you’ve always got an ace up your sleeve in this argument. I mean, if all the Palestinians die, will it be as many as died in the Holocaust? So you just keep working that line. When the Palestinians have suffered as much as the Jews, they can have their own country.

      • Tom Suarez
        April 12, 2016, 4:04 pm

        Mr. Schipper,
        Imagine you were in a historically economically self-sufficient society, that was then commandeered by invaders who destroyed your economy and imposed a totalitarian regime that kept you a forced market to their goods and sabotaged attempts at economic improvement.
        And then someone on the outside came along and said in response that there are worse-off people in the world…
        Saying that there are worse-off people is an insult. All that matters is that the occupying power should be thrown out and the people left to the dignity of their own lives.

    • Marnie
      April 11, 2016, 3:45 am

      “It would be absurd to ask the Palestinians, who either within or without the green line are entirely at the mercy of the occupiers, to boycott Zionist entity products.”

      It’s getting people talking and thinking and doing – and hopefully outside sources (maybe all those churches that have divested from israel) to donate school supplies for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza?). Grassroots involves the people right? I completely disagree Echino, but respect what you’re saying. GO BDS!

      • echinococcus
        April 11, 2016, 8:21 am

        Marnie
        I completely agree with you that grassroots organizing of Palestinians is one of the foremost priorities, no contest there. Asking the victims of Zionism to sacrifice even the remaining tatters of quality of life isn’t logical, though. It’s up to us outside occupied Palestine to boycott, while for Palestinians to effectively direct the movement they will need an ever-increasing popular organization.

      • Marnie
        April 11, 2016, 10:35 am

        This is part of an article that made me post to this one the way I did.

        Pittsburgh’s ‘Conflict Kitchen’ is latest battleground over Palestine, free speech and criticism of Israel
        US Politics
        Julie Hakim Azzam on November 11, 2014 31 Comments

        – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/11/pittsburghs-battleground-palestine/#comment-722066

        Palestinians in Gaza currently “can fish three nautical miles out to sea, where before it was twenty, and before that, it was two hundred nautical miles. So that allows for very little fishing, and the kind of fish you see in the market are smaller fish; larger fish are out further at nine nautical miles,” el-Haddad explained. Israel controls the flow of goods in and out of Gaza as well as the access Gazans have to the sea. As a result, only the small fish are accessible, and some basic ingredients of Gazan cooking, such as sesame seeds used to make tahini, are blocked from import into Gaza, or are too expensive. In the foreword to The Gaza Kitchen, Nancy Harmon Jenkins writes that unlike other areas of the Middle East, Gazans roast their sesame seeds when making tahini, which creates a unique flavor and gives the tahini a darker or reddish color. While Israel may prohibit the entry of sesame seeds into Gaza, it offers Israeli-made tahini at an affordable price, which alters the food culture of the population. – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2014/11/pittsburghs-battleground-palestine/#comment-722066

        It’s the very last sentence here that felt like a knife in my heart. F*&@ occupation-made tahini and everything else.

      • echinococcus
        April 11, 2016, 4:16 pm

        Marnie, I was also thinking of similar cases. People got to eat –especially when they are blockaded, their calories rationed, their gardens burned and all things provided almost exclusively through their tormenters. It’s our job to force the us to weaken the Zionist grip by action over here, while theirs is to fight.

  2. DaBakr
    April 11, 2016, 12:40 am

    There will always be exceptions, excuses and justification why israeli products such as teva drugs, cell phone/computer technology, medical and environmental innovations, etc will never be boycotted, neither here, nor EU or america. therefore the cause of bds will always be tinged with hypocrisy by elite, merchant or lower classes. bds may continue to win battles here and there(mostly liberal ‘where’s) but will always lose the larger war. but dedicated and idealistic, they are

    • bryan
      April 11, 2016, 5:51 am

      You could not stop people buying gold and diamonds either, but the pressure of western citizens made links between Western companies and the South African economy exceedingly uncomfortable and sent a clear message that the South African Apartheid regime eventually listened to.

      You really are whistling in the dark aren’t you. Teva produces mainly generic drugs for which there are plenty of alternative suppliers. As for Israel as a major supplier of cell phones, Wikipedia lists 34 countries that manufacture mobile phones – but does not include Israel, so you may need to go and update this page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mobile_phone_makers_by_country Numerous countries produce computer chips and other equipment. Intel for instance has opened some production facilities in Israel but it also operates in 62 other countries and has invested heavily in research in China. Intel employs 60,000 people in Oregon alone compared with a mere 10,000 in Israel; and I wouldn’t bank on Intel remaining active in Israel in the long run. It has already faced problems with Orthodox Jews attempting to close down production on Shabbat, sets a high premium to its image as a socially and environmentally responsible producer, has refused to source raw materials from conflict zones and faces challenges because its plant at Kiryat Gat was built on stolen Palestinian land. But please keep decrying BDS but you play a valuable role in increasing awareness of the issue.

  3. MaxNarr
    April 11, 2016, 7:59 pm

    Haha you can’t even get so called Palestinians to stop consuming awesome Israeli products. BDS is done.

    • Kay24
      April 11, 2016, 9:51 pm

      Before you embarrass yourself with premature celebration, I suggest you read this great article and learn why Israeli leaders are hell bent on stopping the BDS movement. BDS is not done at all, in fact it is just starting. Truth hurts eh?

      BDS could cost Israel $4.7 billion a year

      Do you wonder why Benjamin Netanyahu is declaring war on BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), and Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban are holding a secret Las Vegas conference to fight it, and Yair Lapid is saying that the people behind BDS plotted 9/11, and Ari Shavit is calling the movement “evil and sophisticated”?

      Well, here’s why. The Financial Times has published a big, and somewhat balanced, article on the rapid rise of BDS that includes two stunning financial numbers showing how powerful the nonviolent movement for justice in Israel/Palestine is becoming.

      The most important information is deep inside the FT article:

      However, there are signs that Israel’s disquiet over BDS is genuine. This week an Israeli financial newspaper covered a leaked government report estimating that BDS could cost Israel’s economy $1.4bn a year. The estimate included lower exports from the settlements in keeping with the EU’s plans to begin labelling goods made there — not part of the BDS movement, although many Israelis lump the two things together. The Rand Corporation, the US think-tank, says the costs could be more than three times higher: $47bn over 10 years.

      – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/06/could-israel-billion/#sthash.EbiqFdnf.dpuf

    • talknic
      April 11, 2016, 10:16 pm

      @ MaxNarr April 11, 2016, 7:59 pm

      “Haha you can’t even get so called Palestinians to stop consuming awesome Israeli products”

      Something to do with what the Occupying Power allows Palestinians perhaps. Occupation is after all an industry on which Israel depends you silly silly person

    • Talkback
      April 12, 2016, 8:56 am

      Haha that’s why so called Israelis consider BDS an awesome threat and therefore have to criminalize it. You are done.

  4. Qualtrough
    April 11, 2016, 10:47 pm

    I suspect DaBakr is going to be called in for some Hasbara refresher training soon. He concedes here that BDS ‘… may continue to win some battles…’ while MaxNarr tells us that ‘BDS is done’. Remember guys, it’s important to stay on message!

    • Mooser
      April 12, 2016, 11:26 am

      “Remember guys, it’s important to stay on message!”

      I’ve been reading Mondo for years, and there’s one constant among the Ziobots: They never, ever, talk to each other. Ever notice that?

      Have we ever seen one of our “liberal” or “left” Zionists even make a feeble attempt at moderating the views of a “MaxNarr”?
      Seems to be a lack of tribal unity.

      • amigo
        April 13, 2016, 3:53 pm

        “I’ve been reading Mondo for years, and there’s one constant among the Ziobots: They never, ever, talk to each other. Ever notice that?” Mooser

        Darn it Mooser. Now the Ziobots will discover the Archives but you may have inadvertently given us a troll free period while they try to prove you wrong.

    • echinococcus
      April 14, 2016, 9:20 am

      Remember guys, it’s important to stay on message!

      It’s even more important to stay on many different messages, no matter if contradictory among themselves. The logical capacities of the human beast are much overrated.
      Zionists are the inventors of the formal science of propaganda –they know that.

  5. amigo
    April 13, 2016, 1:40 pm

    “Yes, Goldman Sachs Funds Hebron’s Settlers. And Charles Schwab Is Funding BDS
    read more: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.714201

    So giving illegal squatters aid to commit war crimes is equal to Charles J Schawb giving aid to JVP who work to end Israel,s war crimes and oppression.

    Zionist logiic at it,s finest.

    You can,t dream this stuff up.

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