Toy Israeli Houses for Italian Kids, Destroyed Homes for Palestinian Children
That was the heading on the leaflet distributed at the Iper Coop in Rome, Italy on July 9, 2010, marking the fifth anniversary of the launch campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. While the systematic demolition of Palestinian homes by Israel continues, the Italian hypermarket instead sells colorful and cheerful plastic toy houses, in addition to children’s chairs, tables and slides, produced by the Israeli company Keter and marketed in Italy by Giochi Preziosi and Grand Soleil.
The Keter Group, a leading worldwide producer of plastics, has some of its factories located in Israeli settlements built illegally in the occupied Palestinian territories, in particular, the infamous industrial zone of Barkan outside the Ariel settlement. Barkan, the second largest settlement industrial area, is home to some of the most environmentally unfriendly industries there are: plastics, aluminum, fiberglass, electroplating and weapons production. It is estimated that Barkan discharges 810,000 cubic meters of industrial waste water per year, which ends up in rivers and lands near the Palestinian village of Salfit.
The Israeli government provides strong incentives for industries that choose to locate their production facilities in the illegal settlements, such as tax breaks, grants and reductions of up to 69% in the rent of state owned lands. In addition, factories have access to a low-cost workforce, exploiting the Palestinians, including many minors, under constant threat of being fired and with no labor or health safeguards.
Activists of the Rome Palestinian Solidarity Network aimed to raise awareness among customers of the Iper Coop on the complicity of Keter in the Israeli occupation and called on the management to provide explanations on the sale of illegal products in the supermarket chain, already the object of campaign against Agrexco, another Israeli company which exploits the occupation for economic interests.
Hoisting the toy house on their shoulders, followed by a colorful procession of children’s chairs and tables, all labeled ‘Made in Israel’, the activists navigated the aisles of the supermarket making their way to the information desk where they asked for details on the origin of the products. Staging a debate between an “unaware customer” ready to purchase the Israeli products for her daughter and an “informed consumer” familiar with the BDS campaign, the activists called the attention of shoppers as they entered the supermarket.
The exaggerated reaction by the security guards– one wore a Celtic cross, a symbol adopted by neo-fascists in Italy, around his neck – and the management cut short the debate. The activists were “invited” to return the products to their place and the assistant manager agreed to a meeting, but far from interested customers who had gathered around. A delegation followed her back into a storage area where they delivered an open letter calling on COOP management to cease its complicity in the illegality and violations of the Israeli government, as documented by the Fourth Geneva Convention, numerous resolutions of the UN Security Council, the ruling of the International Court of Justice, European Parliament and the European Court of Justice.
Outside activists distributed over 300 flyers, inviting customers to defend the right of all children to play, and musicians from the mini-murga activist band entertained passersby.
The United Nations estimates that in 2009 more than 600 Palestinians – more than half of them children – were left homeless following house demolitions by Israeli forces. Over 4000 homes were destroyed in Gaza during the Israeli assault in 2008/2009. Since 1967, almost 25,000 Palestinian homes have been razed.
We cannot put our children under a roof that was taken from another child. Don’t buy products from Keter, complicit in Israel’s colonial system.
The Rome Palestinian Solidarity Network is a broad-based coalition of associations and NGOs working for an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and respect for human rights. Read other articles by Rome Palestinian Solidarity Network.