Settlement boycott causing ‘enormous damage’ to Israeli companies operating in the West Bank

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The following article originally appeared in Hebrew on the Ynet website on August 25, 2010. It was translated by Dena Shunra.

Damage to Israeli Companies exacts a heavy price

It’s not only Norway: Israeli companies are boycotted by many countries for political reasons. Glass factory owner: the boycott has caused me enormous damage.

Yesterday’s decision by the Norwegian Oil Foundation to remove its investments from Africa-Israel and from Denia-Seabus, claiming that they are involved in illegal construction in the Territories is only the last of a long and growing line of decisions taken by governmental and private companies in Europe to boycott Israeli companies for political reasons.

In most cases, the claims are that the products were manufactured beyond the Green Line and thus, in “occupied territories”. Sometimes it is a political protest against Israel’s policy against the Palestinians, as in the response to the flotilla events. One thing is not in doubt: in the past few months, boycott of Israeli brands for political reasons has become markedly increased.

“Since the Palestinians declared a boycott on Territories products, I’ve had a 40% drop in production over the past few months,” said Avi Ben-Zvi, owner of the Plastco company which produces glassware in Ariel. “Export to Europe has entirely cased, and traders in the Territories have stopped working with us. The damage is enormous.”

According to Ariel mayor Ron Nachman, the damage to local factories is immense: “broad-reaching government activity should be initiated, to contact the boycotting countries and threaten them that they will not be party to the political process.”

Human Rights Organization Applied Pressure – Sweden Apologized

Norway’s decision, the day before yesterday, was preceded last March by a decision by a large Swedish pension fund to boycott Israeli company Elbit Systems, due to its role in constructing the Separation Fence. The fund announced that it had sold its holdings in Elbit following a recommendation by the fund’s ethics committee to refrain from investing in the shares of companies that are involved in the violation of international treaties.

Elbit had also been hurt by a boycott before then: the Norwegian government pension fund announced last September that it would stop investing in Elbit due to its role in construction of the fence. Late last May the German Deutschebank announced that it had sold all of its shares in Elbit, probably after great pressure had been applied on the directors of the bank by representatives of anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian organizations.

Two years ago giant Swedish corporation Assa Abloy, owner of Israeli Mul-T-Lock, was criticized for the fact that its production plant was operating in the Barkan industrial park, which is located beyond the Green Line. The company promised to transfer the plant “into the boundaries of Israel,” following pressure by a Swedish Christian human rights organization.

Specific Events

Shraga Brosh [owner of the “Ayelet Barkan” factory in the Barkan industrial zone in the West Bank], chairman of the Industrialist Association, yesterday said that “every now and then organizations, especially from Scandinavia, boycott one or another organization from Israel. All told, these are specific events which have no effect on the overall trade with Israel.”

Soda Club was also hurt by the boycott: the Paris municipality had to deny the participation of that Israeli company in a large fair promoting the drinking of tap water after having received threats from pro-Palestinian organizations.

In July 2009 it was also discovered that French transportation company Veolia, operator of the Jerusalem light rail project, had decided to sell its shares in the project. Veolia did not specify the reason for this sale, but the fact that a French court agreed several months before that to hear a suit filed against Veolia due to the construction of part of the light rail line inside East Jerusalem, to connect Jewish neighborhoods in the east of the city to the west, could be seen as a clue.

Africa-Israel: “Africa and its subsidiaries have not been involved for a while in developing real-estate or residential construction in the West Bank. Thus, there is no foundation to the claims.”

This item was initially published in the Yediot Acharonot Mammon supplement; Daniel Beittini, Navit Zomer, and Offer Petersburg took part in its preparation.

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