Archive for the Profiting from Zionism Category

Israeli Beauty Products Company Ahava Complicit in the Sins of Occupation

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Profiting from Zionism, Zionism on September 20, 2010 by Marcy Newman

By Alex Kane, AlterNet
Posted on September 18, 2010, Printed on September 20, 2010

Walk into any Ricky’s store, a beauty shop chain in New York, and you will find a shelf filled with Ahava products. For $28, you can buy mineral toning cleanser; for $22, Dead Sea liquid salt; and for $9, purifying mud soap. The products made by Ahava (which means “love” in Hebrew) seem innocent enough, perfectly enticing for anyone fond of beauty products.

But looks can be deceiving. As activists from the peace group CodePink’s Stolen Beauty campaign are fond of chanting at protests, Ahava can’t hide its “dirty side.”

For nearly two years, an international campaign spearheaded by Palestine solidarity activists has targeted Ahava and the various stores that carry its products, including Ricky’s, calling for a boycott. The boycott campaign has heated up recently, eliciting push-back from Jewish organizations around the country and a response from the CEO of Ahava.

While Ahava labels its products “made in Israel,” they are actually manufactured in a settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in Palestine. According to the Web site Who Profits?, a project of the Israeli anti-occupation group Coalition of Women for Peace, the company exploits Palestinian resources from the Dead Sea.

Under the Geneva Conventions, and various United Nations resolutions, all of Israel’s settlements–which house about 500,000 settlers–are illegal, as is excavating natural resources in an occupied area. Israel has occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip since the 1967 Six-Day War. The settlements are widely seen as an obstacle to the creation of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state.

“[The boycott] is about a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” said Nancy Kricorian, CodePink’s coordinator for the Stolen Beauty campaign. “The situation on the ground there is dehumanizing and demoralizing and terrible.”

Ahava, which rakes in profits of nearly $150 million a year, according to a Dec. 2009 CNN report, is owned by entities deeply involved in Israel’s settlement project in the occupied West Bank. According to Who Profits? 37 percent of the company is owned by Mitzpe Shalem, an illegal settlement located in the eastern West Bank; another 37 percent by the private investment fund Hamashibr Holdings, which also is a major shareholder in two companies that export produce made in settlements; 18.5 perent by the U.S.-based Shamrock Holding, owned by the Roy E. Disney family of Walt Disney fame, and which is a shareholder in a company that manufactures electronic detection systems that are used on the West Bank separation barrier; and 7.5 percent by the West Bank settlement of Kalia.

In an interview, Kricorian acknowledged that Ahava is a huge target, and likened the Stolen Beauty campaign to a “game of whack-a-mole,” as new places where Ahava products are sold pop up frequently. But Kricorian says it isn’t just about hurting the company’s sales.

“A boycott campaign is strategic, and it’s a long-term thing,” she said. “It’s not just about hurting the company’s sales. It’s also about educating the public about, in this particular case, the company’s illegal practices and sullying the company’s name and reputation.”

The campaign to boycott Ahava, in both the United States and around the world, has racked up some important victories. In August 2009, activists successfully pressured Oxfam International to drop Sex and the City star Kristin Davis as a spokeswoman because she was also working with Ahava. In November 2009, the Dutch Foreign Ministry agreed to investigate Ahava’s manufacturing and labeling practices. Costco, a large U.S. retailer, was pressured into halting the sale of Ahava products at its stores in January 2010. The Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, has included Ahava products in its boycott of settlement products campaign, confiscating and destroying products made in West Bank settlements. Recently, four activists in London were acquitted on charges of trespassing after direct actions in 2009 in which they locked themselves onto oil-filled drums inside an Ahava shop.

AHAVA did not respond to inquiries for comment.

The Stolen Beauty campaign, which began in the aftermath of the brutal Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2008-’09, is part of the larger boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that grew out of a 2005 call by a vast swathe of Palestinian civil society groups for BDS against Israel. Modeled on the anti-apartheid movement that targeted South Africa, the Palestinian-led BDS movement demands that Israel withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories, implement equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel and recognize the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees and their descendants who fled or were expelled from Palestine during the1947-’49 Arab-Israeli war.

“The BDS campaign has become the most effective, morally consistent, nonviolent form of solidarity with the colonized Palestinians against Israel’s apartheid and colonial rule,” Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, wrote in an e-mail. “The Stolen Beauty Campaign against Ahava, led by our partner CodePink, is a truly inspiring BDS campaign, as it is creative, focused, well-researched and very effective in conveying the message across to and, more crucially, in mobilizing BDS action in a wider, more mainstream audience.”

The Israeli government has taken notice of the growing BDS movement. The Israeli Knesset recently passed a preliminary reading of anti-boycott legislation that would impose fines on Israeli activists promoting boycotts of Israel. A February 2010 report by the Reut Institute, an Israeli think-tank with close ties to Israel’s government, identified the BDS movement as an threat to the state.

In the United States, the BDS movement, and the campaign against Ahava, has also generated controversy. After a Washington, D.C.-based group protested in July 2010 against Ahava products being sold in Ulta, a beauty store, the Jewish Community Relations Committee of Greater Washington urged supporters to buy Ahava products.

Brooklyn’s Ricky’s shop has also become the epicenter of a dispute over the Boycott Ahava movement. After a July 9 protest outside the store led by CodePink’s Stolen Beauty and Brooklyn for Peace, which signed onto the campaign in May, a group of rabbis in Brooklyn drafted a letter in response, urging people to buy Ahava products and denouncing the campaign. The rabbis’ letter claimed that “CodePink ignores the history and legal status of Mizpeh Shalom” because it is located in “‘Area C’, a huge section of the West Bank over which Israel, again by joint agreement, was granted full control, except over Palestinian civilians.” (The Area C designation comes out of the 1993-era Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Area C incorporates all West Bank settlements.)

“Local Jewish leaders find the idea of a boycott of Israel to be a misguided and one-sided approach to a complex and deeply troubling conflict,” said Rabbi Andy Bachman, a signatory to the letter and a member of the liberal group J Street’s Rabbinic Cabinet. “The problem with a boycott is there’s one side that’s all right and another side that’s all wrong. If that’s what the boycotters think, then there really is nothing to discuss. But if not, then why not boycott Palestinian business for years of rejecting peace accords?”

So far, Ricky’s has not budged, and continues to sell Ahava products. Dominick Costello, the president of the store, refused to comment.

The relentless targeting of Ahava hasn’t gone unnoticed by the company. A letter that has recently been circulated by Ahava to its business partners states that “our company and products have been the subject of unfortunate, ugly and clearly politically motivated smear attacks” that are being pushed by a “couple of small radical fringe organizations, which are part of a larger and more insidious campaign aimed against the State of Israel.”

The surge in attention to the boycott campaign is a sign that “we’ve gotten attention to issue of settlements like we never got before,” said Naomi Allen, an activist who sits on Brooklyn for Peace’s board and is involved in the group’s Israel/Palestine committee. Beginning this month, Brooklyn for Peace plans to hold protests outside the Ricky’s shop in Brooklyn on the last Tuesday of every month.

“This is not an argument that we’re going to lose, because [what’s] right and international law are on our side,” Allen said. “The issue of Ahava is a clear-cut issue. There’s no excusing the fact that this is occupied territory which is being stolen from the rightful owners and exploited for profit that isn’t being shared with the rightful owners.”

Alex Kane is a student, journalist and blogger based in New York City. He is a writer for the Indypendent and a frequent contributor to the blog Mondoweiss. His work has also appeared in Salon, Electronic Intifada, Common Dreams, Palestine Chronicle, Gotham Gazette and Extra! He blogs at alexbkane.wordpress.com, and you can follow him on Twitter.

© 2010 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/148214/

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Unease over Jordan-Israel trade

Posted in Apartheid, Arab Complicity, Normalization, Profiting from Zionism on September 20, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Suha Philip Ma’ayeh, Foreign Correspondent

* Last Updated: September 19. 2010 10:49PM UAE / September 19. 2010 6:49PM GMT

ZARQA, JORDAN // Israel’s announcement last week that it planned to export 50,000 used cars to Jordan and Iraq created unease among Jordanian second-hand car dealers while advocates against normalising relations with Israel stepped up calls to boycott Israel-made goods and business dealings.

Since 2006, Jordan has imported nearly US$10 million (Dh36.7m) worth of earth-moving equipment, road-construction equipment, new lorries and cars from Israel, Nabil Romman, president of Jordan Free Zones Investors Commission, said. Each year the Zarqa Free Zone (ZFZ), the largest of five public duty-free zones in the country, imports an average of 120,000 used cars, 40,000 of which are sold to the local market.

But Badi Rafayaa, the head of the Professional Associations’ anti-normalisation committee, said Israel wants to dump old cars, which pollute the environment and cause traffic accidents.

“The move is a clear sign of the Zionist entity’s devious intentions towards Jordan and Iraq … We will cooperate with civil-society institutions and will prevent those plans,” he said.

Among some local dealers, concern about Israel’s intentions were of a monetary nature.

“They are going to be 50,000 cars, a hard blow to my business and to the market,” said Mohammad Kabaireh, general mamager of Al-Safa Car Trading at the ZFZ, which imports used cars from South Korea. “In the past five years, we used to sell up to 50 cars in two months, and now I have cars [stuck] in the showrooms from the past seven and eight months. Any cars that enter Jordan are bound to create competition.”

Kamil Nino, an American-Jordanian investor, has sold luxury cars imported from the United States in the ZFZ since 2007.

“If the cars compete with my cars as a line, this would result in an unfair competition,” he said. “Definitely the prices will fall especially since shipping costs are much lower because of the proximity between Jordan and Israel. We pay an average of $2,000 to ship a car from California to the ZFZ, but shipping from Israel will be a fraction of the price. This would kill our prices … For now, I have just asked my brother in the US to put the car exports to Jordan on hold.”

However, other car dealers shrugged off concerns about competition. “Imports of older cars manufactured before 2009 would not affect our business,” said Ahmad, who did not want to reveal his last name. He sells cars in Jordan and also exports them to Libya, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. “In fact, we export to Arab-Israeli car dealers. Just two months ago, we exported 200 Hyundai cars there,” he said.

Mohammad Bustanji, another car dealer, said he doubted used-car imports from Israel would affect his business since he also deals with mostly with new cars and late-model used ones. He added that he thought the cars from Israel would not make their way to many showrooms because of political reasons.

“I doubt any car dealer would dare to purchase the cars,” he said. “Once the cars enter the market from Israel, it would be difficult for customers to tell where they come from, but it will not be difficult in the zone to find out who would purchase these cars. In this case dealers would not even greet him. We are against the move, first and foremost because the cars would come from Israel.”

Mr Romman of the investors commission said cars imported from Israel would not then be shipped to Iraq because they will be older models. Four years ago, Iraq started requiring imported used cars to have been manufactured within two years.

“While Israel places higher specifications on cars, the ones that enter the zone can be of better quality and would present a business opportunity for many dealers here,” he said.

smaayeh[at]thenational.ae

CEO of Israeli Cosmetics Firm Ahava Rattled by Growing Boycott; False Claims Put Out by Company Are Refuted by ‘Stolen Beauty’ Campaign

Posted in Apartheid, International BDS Actions, Profiting from Zionism, Why Boycott?!, Zionism on September 14, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Contact: Nancy Kricorian, 646-234-8529, codepinknyc[at]gmail.com
Rae Abileah, 415-994-1723, Rae[at]codepink.org

In a recent, quietly circulated letter from the desk of Yaacov Ellis, CEO of Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories—a company at the center of a growing international boycott campaign—and directed at the company’s retail partners, Ellis deploys specious information about his own company’s business practices, contradictory claims about Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, and unfounded innuendo about boycott campaign supporters. This letter comes after a year of pressure, lead in the United States by the women’s peace group CODEPINK and their “Stolen Beauty” Ahava Boycott campaign, and total refusal by the CEO to respond to press queries about his company’s illegal business practices.

Background on Ahava’s illegal business practices

Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories is an Israeli cosmetics company that has its manufacturing plant and visitors center near the shores of the Dead Sea in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank. Despite Ellis’s claim in the letter that “Mitzpe Shalem is not an illegal settlement,” all Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal under international law. The company is 44% owned by Mitzpe Shalem and another settlement, Kalia, so that the company’s profits are subsidizing these illegal colonies. Although its goods are manufactured in the West Bank, Ahava labels them as “products of Israel,” a practice that is illegal under European Union law and is currently being investigated in the UK and Holland.

Nancy Kricorian, Stolen Beauty Campaign Manager, said, “Ahava makes beauty products, but there is nothing beautiful in occupation. Rather than openly defending his company’s dubious record, which would not stand up to public scrutiny, Ellis is sending out a private letter that is full of false claims.” Read the full letter here.

The growing influence of the international boycott campaign

Since its launch in July 2009, the Stolen Beauty Ahava Boycott has scored a number of successes. The first victory came after pressure on Oxfam, an international human rights organization, which had publicly condemned all Israeli settlement products, to suspend its Goodwill Ambassador Kristin Davis from publicity work for the duration of her contract as Ahava spokeswoman. Davis, best known for her work on HBO’s Sex and the City, allowed her contract to expire a few months later. Abroad, coalition partners in London engaged the UK’s Camden Trading Standards Office to investigate the legality of Ahava’s labeling. Dutch activists and a Minister of the Parliament succeeded in convincing the Dutch Foreign Ministry to launch its own investigation of Ahava’s business methods. Partners in Paris have recently filed suit against the cosmetics chain Sephora for carrying Ahava products.

Part of a growing international movement

Modeled on the worldwide campaign against apartheid-era South Africa, the movement for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel called in response to Israel’s many violations of Palestinian rights has grown and achieved significant successes, particularly following Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in 2009, which killed over 1400 Palestinians. The Stolen Beauty campaign is a part of this growing international movement.

For more information on CODEPINK’s Stolen Beauty Ahava Boycott Campaign please visit www.stolenbeauty.org .

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Veolia whitewashes illegal light rail project

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Profiting from Zionism, Zionism on August 28, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 26 August 2010

Last week the Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the consortium holding the contract to the controversial Jerusalem light rail project surveyed city residents on whether they would feel comfortable sharing rail service with Palestinians.

The bad publicity around the survey — described as racist by even members of the Israeli government — is an ironic turn of events. The French transportation giant Veolia, which plays a key role in the rail project that strengthens Israel’s grip on occupied East Jerusalem, has used dubious surveys of Palestinians in attempt to put a positive spin on its involvement in the project.

On 20 August Haaretz revealed that CityPass, the contract-holding consortium in which Veolia Transport and another French company, Alstom are a part of, executed a survey among residents of Jerusalem. CityPass asked residents whether they are comfortable with the rail line including stops in Palestinian neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem, and whether they are bothered by both Jews and Arabs entering freely “without undergoing a security check.”

Israeli municipal officials and the transportation ministry called the questions “racist.” In a letter to CityPass, Yair Maayan, Jerusalem’s municipal director general, wrote that “We were flabbergasted to see how a private commercial consortium dared to address these subjects, which are none of its business whatsoever; to ask such racist questions and to arouse strife and contention in the city.”

The Jerusalem light rail is a component of the “Jerusalem Transportation Master Plan” sponsored by the Israeli government and the Jerusalem municipality. Activists have pressured Veolia and Alstom for their subsidiaries’ involvement in the project which is designed to serve the needs of Israeli settlers. The first line of the light rail connects West Jerusalem with illegal settlements around Palestinian East Jerusalem on the occupied West Bank, in violation of international law.

Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and the annexation of East Jerusalem are illegal under international law. This status has been confirmed repeatedly by numerous UN resolutions and the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on Israel’s wall in the occupied West Bank. As a result, activists have argued that Veolia is directly implicated in maintaining Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank and annexing Palestinian East Jerusalem.

In May 2006, Veolia Transport responded to these criticisms by stating that they would seek “independent legal opinions in order to increase our understanding of the situation.” The company contracted with Ove Bring, Professor Emeritus of International Law of Stockholm University and the Swedish National Defence College, for advice. Bring informed Veolia that due to Israel’s illegal occupation, the presumption is that the light project was also illegal. He suggested that the presumption of illegality could be reversed if the local Palestinian population felt it would benefit from the light rail.

However, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) objected to Veolia’s involvement in the project from the start. In a 11 July 2001 press release the PLO stated that the project “harms the Palestinian population and its rights to self-determination.” The PLO warned Veolia to stay away from the project in 2005, and in 2007 the PLO took Veolia to court in France. The objections were supported at a press conference in November 2009 held by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), which represents more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, which took a public stand against the project.

Veolia has dismissed these objections from Palestinian bodies, stating on its website that the controversy around its involvement has been “largely diffused by some pro-Palestinian NGO’s [nongovernmental organizations] and in the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian press” (“The Jerusalem Light Rail Transit”).

In an attempt to evade the statements by major Palestinian organizations, Veolia commissioned opinion polls in 2007 and 2009 to satisfy the issues raised by Professor Bring. Veolia boasted that a high level of support for the project was found in its survey of Palestinian neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem. However, their veracity is doubtful as the company has provided no information about the survey methodology, the questions posed, or the characteristics of the persons who participated, refusing requests for clarification.

In response, Bring told The Electronic Intifada: “If Veolia is not prepared to share their information they will not be in a credible situation to argue benefits to the Palestinian population.”

East Jerusalem resident Ramzi Zaniniri’s 83-year-old mother was surveyed by telephone. Asked if she would take the light rail mode of transport, Zaniniri’s mother consented. Zaniniri explained: “But people in [the Palestinian neighborhoods of] Shuafat and Beit Hanina, like my mother, do not know where the tram will go, whether it will be confiscating land or not.”

Two-thousand square meters of land belonging to Shuafat resident Mahmoud al-Mashni have been confiscated for the light rail project, and more of his land will be confiscated for the parking lot next to the station. “It is not good for us, it is good for the Jewish settlements,” al-Mashni explained in a telephone interview with The Electronic Intifada. “We cannot afford to pay the fees. One ticket will cost 15 shekels [$4]. Our income is low. The bus to East Jerusalem costs us only four shekels [$1].”

On 31 January 2008 The Jerusalem Post reported that Shuafat residents see the light rail more as a burden than a benefit. Abed Dari, a teacher from Shuafat, told the paper: “they say they are opening the light rail to make it easier for people to live, but we see that it is making life harder. Everyone here has to use the main road to travel to Jerusalem, but many lanes are blocked by the railway.”

According to al-Mashi, as the light rail uses half of the width of the main road that cuts through Shuafat, it is no longer possible to cross the road. Traffic is now restricted to two lanes in each direction, causing traffic jams when buses and cars stop at the shops along the road. During prayer time, cars are lined up near the community mosque, narrowing the road to a single lane.

The burden of proof remains on Veolia to demonstrate that the light rail project will benefit the Palestinian population and be constructed with their consent.

Palestinian activist Rifat Kassis told The Electronic Intifada: “The illegality of this project cannot be whitewashed with this or that ‘opinion’ poll that may deceptively and very selectively show that some Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem are ‘happy’ with a distinctly colonial project that will cement the Israeli occupation’s control over their occupied city.”

Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.

IKEA’s answer to the 12 August open letter

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Profiting from Zionism, Zionism on August 28, 2010 by Marcy Newman

Statement from IKEA on 23 August 2010

IKEA® is for the many, respecting individuals with different views and opinions. IKEA® stands neutral on political, religious or ethnical views. It is unthinkable for us to exclude any individual or group of individuals from being an IKEA® customer. We welcome all people to the IKEA® stores, independent of religion, ethnic background or where they live.

Inter IKEA Systems B.V. is the worldwide franchisor of the IKEA Concept and the owner of the IKEA brand. IKEA operations are today carried out in 314 IKEA Stores in 38 countries including Israel and a number of Arabic countries. All IKEA operations are carried out under franchise from Inter IKEA Systems B.V. and focus on serving the customers irrespective of religion and ethnicity. This is also valid for our local franchisee in Israel – Northern Birch Ltd – which is an independent company operating the two IKEA Stores in Israel.

The IKEA Concept is the same all over the world. It is a retail concept for selling furniture and home furnishings from an IKEA store, i.e. it is not a mail order or e-commerce concept. One of the fundamentals of the IKEA Concept is immediate take away and cash and carry. An essential part is that the customers themselves bring home the products they bought in the store. IKEA customers who have purchased IKEA products and cannot bring them home themselves can turn to a local Israeli transport company to have their purchased products delivered to their home.

International Law Professor Ove Bring has in an interview stated that IKEA in Israel discriminates Palestinians by not delivering to Ramallah on the West bank. Currently there are restrictions set by the government in Israel on crossing the border between the state of Israel and territories controlled by Palestinian Authorities. Such restrictions prevent people living in these territories to visit the IKEA Stores in Israel and prevent transportation companies from delivering hereto. We as well as our Israeli franchisee regret any limitations preventing any customer from visiting the IKEA stores or from using the services offered by the IKEA partners.

Being a European company operating under EU legislation, Inter IKEA Systems B.V. is subject to competition legislation in Europe. This means that we are forbidden to instruct anyone to prevent delivery of goods to end-consumers located in other countries/territories when the end-consumer has visited the IKEA Store to make their purchases. This is a Competition Law principle which we apply in every franchise agreement with franchisees globally.

We regret that the map used by the local transportation firm has been interpreted as a political statement and we are sorry if anyone has been offended. The map is just intended as a factual description of the areas to which the transportation company is able to deliver home transportation. We want to assure you that the map is not meant as a political statement by either Inter IKEA Systems B.V. or Northern Birch Ltd. and we regret if it has been perceived in such a way.

Best regards,

Corporate Communications
Inter IKEA Systems B.V.

On Local Boycott and Deception

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Palestinian Economy, Profiting from Zionism, Zionism on August 25, 2010 by Marcy Newman

By Khalil Nakhleh

Like many thousands of Palestinians in Ramallah, I feel utterly confused by the dishonesty of being railroaded concerning local boycott of ‘settlements’ products. Because we—my wife and I—are committed to the principle and act of boycott, as a means of resistance, I decided to clarify the primary issues involved, in order to minimize, as much as possible, daily contradictions. I embarked on sorting out, systematically, methodically and with clarity, related major issues.

Enemies and Friends

The distinction is not as clear as it sounds. The Ramallah “Government”, its ministries, agencies, and commissions, repeat one line, and want to ram it down our throats. This line can be simplified as follows:

“Our primary enemy, at this historical juncture, is the illegal settlements in the West Bank. Therefore, and in order to punish these settlements, and force them out, we, and our international ‘friends’, must boycott their products.”

The words used do not reflect conviction, on the part of the “Government”, that: these are Zionist settler colonies; and having been established on stolen Palestinian lands in the West Bank, since 1967, is only another phase of the Zionist settler-colonial project that started in the rest of Palestine, since much earlier than 1948; and this is not, necessarily, the final phase of this onslaught. But we are “dooped” into thinking that this is so.

We are not being prepared to confront other imminent phases in the not-so-distant future in the proliferation of Zionist settler colonies, in the body of the Arab Homeland. Just as they are in the Syrian Golan, it is certain they will spread into Lebanon, Iraq, and the Gulf region, at least for now. The message imposed on us, through this publicly very visible hoop la of boycotting “settlement” products, says that the “settlements” are our enemy and the rest of Zionist Israel, so-called “Israel proper”, is not.

Zionist Israel is actually our “partner”, (and a preferred one at that) who has the potential of becoming our friend; but if challenged, it may become upset, mean and vengeful. Thus, it’s not expedient for us to boycott its products, which flood our markets.

On the contrary, we should facilitate disseminating and selling Israeli goods in our mini- markets and super markets, and in the process, help escalate the profits of those mercantile intermediaries who became their exclusive brokers, and the monopolies they created. After all, these exclusive special brokers are Palestinians, aren’t they? And they provide employment opportunities through these monopolies to our youth, don’t they? Such exclusive commercial brokering, according to this logic, therefore, helps “develop” our society, because they garner extra capital, and they circulate it! To whom, where, and with what effect, it’s not clear, and, worse yet, no one is posing these questions.

If Zionist Israel is inching towards the “friends” category, then all the dealers who work hard to market its products within our midst, and effectively undermine and impede our ability at producing alternatives for these products, should also be considered our “friends”. It also stands to reason that all those Palestinians and non-Palestinians who work very actively to normalize relations with Zionist Israel, from the President down, should be placed squarely in our “friends” category column.

Furthermore, shouldn’t this apply to all those, Palestinians and non-Palestinians, who work very diligently at providing detailed and intimate information to Zionist Israel about our society, our local family structure and gatherings, about who does what, where and when, about our community-based resistance, about every little thing we do and say, i.e., the informers and collaborators(al-‘umala’)? If so, where are our enemies then? Isn’t it odd that their category is shrinking rapidly, to an infinitesimal degree, while we’re still under occupation and oppression?

Armed with a slightly clearer deciphering of who our local “enemies” and “friends” are, but in the absence of clear “official” guidelines of who our international “enemies” and “friends” are, I felt I was all set to wade through the available products at our favorite mini-market. I embarked with the hope (proved unjustified later on) that our favorite mini-market would stock fewer products coming from Zionist Israel, than would supermarkets.

As I perused through the shelves, my confusion persisted. In the first place, almost all products were marked in Hebrew. By reading that, I felt somewhat proud that finally I could get a clearer idea about which to boycott, and which to buy. But then I realized that products coming from China, Turkey, Portugal, the USA, Morocco, Egypt, Zionist Israel … all had Hebrew on them. This did not help me in identifying those products coming from the “settlements”! (Products coming from Pesgat Zeev, or Ariel, or Modi’in, or Petah Tikva, or Nahariya, etc, are not marked “product of settlements”, but “product of Israel.)

Since we don’t produce fresh milk yet, I veered to major Israeli companies, mainly, Tenuva, for that. But, I couldn’t tell, however, if “Tenuva” fresh milk is settlement-contaminated, or not. Moreover, what about the “al-Bustan” humos that is supposedly coming from the Palestinian city of Imm al-Fahm from inside Zionist Israel? Should I boycott that, even though its owners are indigenous Palestinians (perhaps with Zionist partners), who, most probably, succeeded in building their humos factory as a reward for their cooperation?

The deeper I delved, the more confused I became. Since we are committed to practice our boycott approach with zest, we stopped buying Nestlee products, specifically, the “Nescafe”, after it was reported about their plant in the settlement of Sderot in Al-Naqab, contiguous to besieged Gaza. And since we boycott visible Israeli products, we could not look for an alternative there. We searched for the few non-Israeli alternatives available at our favorite mini-market. We started buying “Maxwell House” instant coffee, as a more politically correct, alternative. It is manufactured, however, by an American company, Kraft Foods, coming to us directly from Germany.

Likewise, looking for “Omega-3” sardines, we found ourselves buying the available “small mackerels”, product of Portugal (EU), but coming to us via an Israeli importing company. The only “contaminants-free” sardines we could find were a product of Morocco, but coming to us through a British export-import company. But Morocco presents another worrying and confusing case for us. On the one hand, it is an Arab country, but on the “political correctness” scale, it is hardly distinguishable from the US or France. We also found and bought canned mushrooms, product of China, but coming to us through a Palestinian importer in Tulkarm, and so on, and so on. The success of this process demanded an on-going research, considering our limited choices.

But the nagging problem of who our real enemies are, persisted, and begged for deeper explanation. Isn’t America our real enemy? Aren’t EU countries, who support America readily in every major decision it takes against us, our real enemies? Isn’t current Egypt, whose American-propped up geriatric Pharaoh (AKA President) is instrumental in blocking basic foods from reaching our besieged people in Gaza, our enemy? Is Turkey, who insists on maintaining and developing serious and far-reaching strategic relations and cooperation with Israel, in restructuring and controlling our region, through an actual division of labor between it and Zionist Israel, our enemy or our friend? How can we know without clear guidance?

To relieve my confusion, I escaped into, what I thought, would be a straight forward situation, the vegetables and fruits. I went to Abu Issa, our preferred vegetable and fruit little haven. I said: Abu Issa, do you have “baladi” (domestic) pears, or apples? Yes, he answered: “those ‘green-skinned’ pears. I next asked, where are they coming from? The Golan, he answered. Feeling elated that he considered the Golan as “baladi”, I bought some, because I assumed readily that they are coming from the proud and un-acquiescing Syrian-Arab-Druze villages in the Golan, defying various checkpoints to bring them to Ramallah. I had no doubt that this would be indeed “baladi”. But then I started doubting my own certainty. How can we be sure that they have not originated in the Golan Zionist settlements, which have riddled their entire space? What evidence do I have that these ‘green-skinned’ pears and apples that I am buying, unquestionably, are not coming from a collaborative project between Arab-Syrian Golanis and Zionist settlers?

Then I moved to the vegetable corner clearly marked “intajuna” (our production). There I found, after a brief enquiry, what is in season now: eggplants, cucumbers, tomatoes, koussa (squash), bamyeh (okra), cauliflower, grapes and figs. I was relieved, because I thought sticking to what’s in season, under the label of “intajuna”, lessens to a large degree the state of confusion with which I started. Consequently, we concluded in our household, that we need to stick to what we can buy directly from the farmers—our local producers—and what’s in season, even if we have to eat “bamyeh” 3 times a week in certain instances!

Our Oslo-induced “National” Production and Development

Why is it then that our economy had not focused on production of alternatives to basic food stuffs that we need, and which will minimize, and gradually cut, our dependence on products coming to us from our enemies? It is simple. The “Oslo-induced” ‘national economy’ is, by and large, nothing more than a national “warsheh” (workshop) of consumption. Here we are being trained and drilled on the most effective methods of how to consume goods and products produced by others, but imported to us through an entire network of dealerships, fancy marketing schemes, and generous availability of credit. This is what makes quick money, unprecedented windfall profits, and opens wide our entire area for quick return on investments, through lucrative services of banks, insurance companies, 5-star hotels, micro-credit, construction, mortgage systems, restaurants and eating places, etc. This is what Zionist Israel encourages; this is what “donor funding agencies” push for and reward; and this is what our capitalists (small and big, new and old) welcome with open arms.

I keep wondering about all the new and fancy cars on the roads in Ramallah: who owns them, and where did they get the money to purchase them? The few Oslo-induced monopolies, in which Palestinian and other Arab capitalists invested some of their funds, are basically service monopolies. They are the ones who are involved heavily in car dealerships, dealerships of other fancy foreign products that cater to the new Oslo-created elite, real estate “development”, telecommunications, etc. The few “production” monopolies focus on construction-related materials; not on agricultural production.

It is not by accident that the investments of hundreds of millions of dollars, over the last seventeen years, were not directed to agricultural production, using land as the main resource in the production process. Why were there no serious investments in making sure that we control the comprehensive cycle of chicken production, from the eggs to the little chicks, to the feed, etc, for example? What about the productive development of goats and sheep milk and other environmentally and culturally adaptive cheeses and dairy products? Etc, etc. To do that in a feasible way, we ought to have insisted from the onset, at least twenty years ago, that all our land and water resources remain under our—the people’s—exclusive control. It is clear to me that our investors, our capitalists, were never interested in having an independent economy in the first place? A very dependent economy under continued occupation is where the profits are! It’s less of a hassle, and less confrontational. Furthermore, a very dependent and empty miniature fiefdom of self-rule under continued occupation is where the profits are!

Let’s look at a glaring example of an Oslo-induced production project, which, at first glance may appear to contradict my above generalization. The glaring example is the so-called “National Beverage Company”. This is a Coca-Cola franchise that boasts annual sales of 10 million cases. It is neither “national” nor a wise health choice beverage. The name of the company is a classic case of deception. The essence of it is that we—our capitalists—rush to use our precious and scarce water to produce an unhealthy drink for our young generations, and to sell, in the process, addiction and positive identity with our primary enemy—the USA, for profit. Clearly, this type of “production” undermines and negates the entire notion of boycott and of independence.

– Dr. Khalil Nakhleh, a Palestinian anthropologist, independent researcher and writer, who for the last three decades has sought to generate People-Centered Liberationist Development in Palestine. He is working on a book, Development Ltd: The Role of Capital in Impeding People-Centered Liberationist Development, expected to be ready for publication in 2011. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: abusama[at]palnet.com.

Boycott of Israeli goods threatens to divide Port Townsend Food Co-op members

Posted in International BDS Actions, Profiting from Zionism on August 20, 2010 by Marcy Newman

By Nicholas Johnson of the Leader

[Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in our Aug. 11, 2010 print edition and e-edition. A report from the Aug. 11 co-op meeting mentioned in this story is coming to our Aug. 18 issues.] Dena Bugel-Shunra compares a boycott to a pebble in your shoe.

“It’s a very small thing, but it’ll really get you going,” she said. “You’ll walk different. It’ll hurt you. It’ll bug you. It’s pretty much what a boycott does.”

Bugel-Shunra and four others proposed at the July 6 board meeting of the Port Townsend Food Co-op that the Co-op boycott all Israeli products. Since then, more than 40 comments have trickled in to the board. And while 40 may seem insignificant, recent efforts to ban Israeli products in co-ops around the state have garnered powerful community responses.

At their July 15 meeting, the Olympia Food Co-op board of directors adopted a proposal to boycott all Israeli products, becoming the first of its kind to do so. The co-op’s spokeswoman, Jayne Kaszynski, said the board received hundreds of phone calls from around the world expressing discontent with the decision. Since then 9,000 emails from around the world have flooded inboxes. In response the board plans to hold a member forum Thursday evening, Aug. 12.

Ever since the Port Townsend Co-op board received the proposal, the Product Review Committee (PRC) has studied the feasibility of adopting the ban through alternative product research and member comments. The PRC is set to present an update of its findings at 4:30 p.m. today, Aug. 11, at the Co-op’s annex at 2482 Washington St. The public is welcome to attend.

Then the PRC plans to continue its analysis of the proposal until the board’s Sept. 21 meeting. That meeting is expected to be devoted to the topic, and the board may make a decision about a boycott.

Made in Israel?

While Olympia’s co-op excluded Peace Oil Olive Oil from the Israeli products now boycotted, the oil remains on the list of products Port Townsend’s co-op is researching. Six other products are also on the list: bulk organic paprika, bulk pearled couscous, Ener-G Sesame Pretzels, Glutino Pretzels, Masada Dead Sea Bath Salts and Tropical Source mint chocolate bars.

Interim general manager Deb Shortess said the Co-op has identified alternative products made outside Israel for nearly all those listed. If the Israeli products were not replaced, Shortess said the Co-op would see a $5,000 drop in revenue – about 0.05 percent of current revenue. She said she couldn’t yet predict the boycott’s impact upon member purchases.

International effort

Of the 10 boycott proposals presented to co-op boards around the state, all come from members or supporters of an international activist effort called Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS). In 2005 more than 170 Palestinian organizations signed on to the BDS campaign, the stated goals of which are to bring peace to exiled refugees, equal rights to Palestinians within Israel and an end to violence in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. The campaign’s key tactic: boycott.

“Boycott is the pebble in Israel’s shoe,” Bugel-Shunra said. “And we would like to be a part of that pebble.”

On the morning after the Olympia Food Co-op’s boycott decision, it became headline news in Israel and around the Middle East thanks to a press release issued by BDS to the international media.

“The reason for that is because in Israel they had a sense up until that point that the U.S., which is a major funder of Israel and its military, was perfectly fine and down with the whole oppression thing,” Bugel-Shunra said. “They were astonished.”

Tibor Breuer, a 22-year member and two-time board member of Olympia’s Food Co-op, was also astonished, yet for very different reasons.

“The whole world knew before Olympia,” he said. “It has hurt this community so deeply. It has put my life on hold.”

The Olympia Food Co-op’s board failed to consider the feelings of the membership, said Breuer. He said 40 people attended the co-op’s July 15 board meeting to support the boycott, while most members were left unaware.

“Ninety-nine point five percent of the membership found out after the fact,” he said. “The board did not even think about tabling it to consider the community’s input.”

Kaszynski, the Olympia co-op’s spokesperson, said the co-op’s policy does not require the board to seek member comment. Boycott decisions are left up to the Merchandizing Coordination Action Team, the co-op board of directors and co-op staff. And while many in the community feel the decision was made in secrecy, Kaszynski said the co-op simply followed policy.

After a volunteer cashier suggested the boycott more than two years ago, strong feelings were expressed on both sides of the issue. After collecting staff opinions the board adopted the boycott proposal and agreed to hold a member forum.

For Breuer, that forum can’t come soon enough. He said half the board was unaware of what they were endorsing.

“I feel the board was bullied and intimidated,” he said. “What we have on our hands now is a major division in this town.”

A community divided

In Port Townsend, many fear a boycott would similarly divide the community. Rima Phillips said she feels the Food Co-op is not the place for political expression.

“I like to buy my food at the Co-op,” she said. “And I like to do my politics somewhere else.”

Karma Tenzing Wangchuck, one of the five who proposed the boycott in Port Townsend, said the Co-op is, in fact, a political organization.

“Food is political. What we eat is a political choice,” he said. “If we choose a food that is made in a country that oppresses the people that grew that food, clearly we should be concerned about that. We should think about not eating that food and we should think about our Co-op, since we are member owners, together to make a collective decision to do what we can here to encourage the situation be changed there.”

Phillips said while she does not support Israel’s policy toward Palestine, she feels Co-op members deserve the right to choose for themselves what products to buy.

“They shouldn’t be telling me what to eat,” she said.

Since the proposal was made, public notice has been posted on a bulletin board at the front of the store. Small signs also hang near products currently under review by the PRC. Phillips said she feels such displays make a political statement on their own and do not belong in the Co-op.

“I believe the notices, in themselves, make a political statement that I think we should avoid, as we have done in the past,” she wrote to the board.

Others opposed to the boycott feel clear signage could serve as a tenable alternative to a boycott. Debi Steele, for example, wrote, “Leave the products but mark them so we can choose to buy them or not.”

Wangchuck said informing members of the products’ origin through labeling is a fine idea and should remain an option should the board choose not to boycott. But for now, he said he is grateful for the opportunity to discuss the issue.

“We have several weeks now of an opportunity to try to educate ourselves and others to sit down and be the peace we want to evoke in the Middle East,” he said.

Dividing the community

Phillips said such politically-charged notices in the Co-op serve to divide the community and inevitably make some members uncomfortable shopping in their own Co-op.

“I think it certainly has the potential to stir up anti-Semitism – whether the organizers feel that way or not,” she said. “Haven’t we learned yet that this head-on divisiveness gets us nowhere?”

Wangchuck and Bugel-Shunra couldn’t agree more. They have seen first-hand the reaction to their proposal while presenting it at a table set up outside the Co-op doors.

“We’ve had people come by our table and yell at us with venom,” Wangchuck said. “One person said something like, ‘If there is a Holocaust here and you’re the targets, I hope they take you down.’ And this was spat at us with extreme verbal violence. We need to hear that clearly and feel where that can be coming from.”

He said fears of anti-Semitism miss the mark. The goals of the proposed boycott are humanitarian in nature and ultimately aim to foster peace, he said.

“What I see is that a lot of the objections to the boycott are not coming from a point of thoughtfulness, care, concern and rationality,” he said. “But rather from pain, fear and hate.”

Seattle stays neutral

Jane Deer of Jewish Family Services, located across the street from Central Co-op’s Madison Market in Seattle, said she has watched as the Seattle co-op’s board of trustees struggled to appease their members. She has shopped at the co-op for years and since April has been a member of the Product Issues Committee (PIC), which is essentially equivalent to Port Townsend’s PRC. She said the board has recently dropped the matter after receiving hundreds of phone calls in opposition.

“I think big political issues coming up like this at a food co-op is not a good idea because there are too many other things to deal with already,” she said. “[Members] are there to buy healthy food and be environmentally conscious. They are not there to solve the problems of countries thousands of miles away. [The board] would have to be really knowledgeable and informed to really do this right.”

Deer said she feels the DBS boycott movement is working to bring about the destruction of the state of Israel and feels a boycott is reminiscent of anti-Semitism.

“I would be heartbroken if co-ops around the state went this way,” she said. “It’s as if Israel is the only nation bad enough for the co-op to boycott.”

Many in Port Townsend have questioned the boycott’s targeting of human rights violations in Palestine, suggesting the Co-op also consider boycotting Chinese products and other nations that violate human rights. Olympia’s co-op also has a boycott on Chinese products, for example.

Wangchuck said he would likely sign on to a boycott of Chinese products; however he said the United States’ relationship with China is far different from its relationship with Israel. The United States does not award $3 billion in military spending to China, he said.

Jefferson Healthcare

Peace Oil

Shortess said the board could choose to adopt a full boycott, no boycott or a partial boycott, which would involve some products and not others. One product under dispute is Peace Oil Olive Oil, which is jointly produced by Palestinians and Israelis. Olympia’s co-op chose to exclude Peace Oil from its list of products under boycott.

In a letter to the Port Townsend Co-op’s board, Terry Segal wrote, “To suggest, for example, the boycott of fair-trade Peace Oil, a product that represents the joint efforts of Israeli and Palestinian farmers who create a beautiful, sustaining food, is a frighteningly short-sighted and dangerous proposal.”

Daniel Bugel-Shunra, one of the four who proposed the Port Townsend boycott, said Peace Oil is a wonderful product, yet he is wary of the labor relationships that lead to its Israeli-based distribution. In a letter titled “Why I am against BDS,” the oil’s proprietor, David Sokal, reports that 75 percent of Peace Oil’s olive oil comes from Canaan Fair Trade, which is a Palestinian-owned and operated company representing 1,700 farmers on the West Bank. Daniel Bugel-Shunra said he is surprised more of the oil doesn’t come from Canaan.

“[Canaan and the Palestinian farmers] are very capable of selling it themselves,” he said. “They don’t need Israeli middlemen.”

Daniel and Dena Bugel-Shunra said they prefer to buy the Canaan Fair Trade oil rather than Peace Oil because they want to more directly support Palestinian farmers.

Why boycott, why now?

The Bugel-Shunras and Wangchuck compare the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to South African apartheid. Their ultimate goal, they said, is to lift the apartheid of Palestinians created by a violent, U.S.-funded Israeli military policy.

“The people who live in Palestine now – whether they are European Jews who went there as a result of the Holocaust and because they were expelled from Europe, or native aboriginal Palestinians – all have to live together in that land,” Daniel Bugel-Shunra said. “They have to find a way – whether in a combined state or two separate states next to each other – to live together.”

He said the BDS movement and boycott campaign is not interested in defining the solution to the conflict, instead that must be left to the Israelis and Palestinians. The ultimate goal of boycotts is to send a message that despite U.S. financial and arms support, American citizens do not condone violent oppression and instead support the disarmament of Israelis and Palestinians alike, said Dena Bugel-Shunra.

Wangchuck said the BDS has opted to use nonviolent boycott due to its effectiveness during the 20th century. Dena Bugel-Shunra said she hopes a boycott of Israeli products could help change Palestinian perceptions that Americans are complicit with the oppression and violence.

Wangchuck said while discussing human rights violations can be painful and often come with emotional baggage, the Co-op’s commitment to “social and economic change and improvement within the larger community” means recognizing the interconnectedness of food and community.

“The mission statement says the Co-op is a life-affirming association,” he said. “We’re doing nothing but trying to foster life-affirming democracy” for Palestinians in Israel.

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