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Occupation Industry


July 30, 2011 - ...Due to the asymmetry of the conflict, it is inevitable that negotiations will continue to fail. And for the time being, it is unclear whether the Palestinian UN bid for statehood will make any difference, especially since the US will do everything within its power to see that it fails. For now, it seems as if taking part in the BDS campaign represents the only inkling of hope that will inch us along the road towards justice. This is why being aware of the things we are buying and supporting back home, wherever that may be, is so important. And now that Israel has passed the Anti-Boycott Bill, making it illegal for anyone within Israel to support the boycotts of settlement goods, or Israeli goods in general, it is even more crucial for the international community to do something, at the very least to be aware that "every dollar you spend is a vote"....

[80073]



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Occupation Industry

Meg Walsh

30boycott270711.jpg

July 30, 2011

As my time here in Palestine is winding down, I am trying to think of the best ways to take action against the Israeli occupation of Palestine even when I am thousands of miles away. I do not want to have just come and left as a typical observer. Last summer I learned about the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) movement from its co-founder, Omar Barghouti. The movement, initiated in 2005 by Palestinian civil society, seeks to end the occupation through a rights based approach—to "implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognized in full compliance with international law."

Barghouti went on to tell us "For you- the bystander- we have no anger. Right now, all we ask of you is this: do not actively fuel this occupation. Remove yourself as a contributing force to this apartheid: we cannot ask for any less of your efforts."

Put as simple as that, it is hard to find reason not to comply. The movement does not ask for money, it does not ask for time, it does not even ask for solidarity in Palestine. It is a simple call: do not buy products or invest in companies that directly aid Israel and its human rights violations.

What people don’t realize is that the effects of the occupation stretch all the way across the world, even back to California where I live. The strength of the occupation, in one aspect, lies in the fact that people do not know they are supporting it. At my university, for example, you can go to the student store and buy Sabra hummus, which is produced in Israeli settlements. By buying Sabra hummus, in addition to many other products marked 'Made in Israel’, (when it is actually made in Palestine), one is supporting the appropriation and theft of Palestinian land unknowingly.

Furthermore, my own teachers’ pensions, as well as many employees throughout California and the rest of the country in the academic, medical, and research fields, are in TIAA-CREF, a pension fund that invests in companies that directly profit from Israel’s occupation. TIAA-CREF invests in Caterpillar (used to routinely demolish Palestinian homes), Elbit Systems (supplier of arms and unmanned vehicles used in Operation Cast Lead and involved in the construction of the illegal separation barrier), and Motorola (supplier of equipment for military checkpoints in the West Bank), to name just a few.

It would be nice and comforting to bring back stories of hope that I have seen here, but I can only be honest. That is not what I have seen at all. On an individual level, yes, there is usually some degree of hope that people naturally hold onto despite their situation. But on the political level, the level that actually affects people’s lives on the ground, I do not see much. I see a volatile situation that could erupt at any moment, made worse by the continuation of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, and the effective grip that the Israeli army has on every aspect of Palestinian life. Conflicts often occur in cyclical fashion, and being that now is a time of relative, although unstable calm, Israeli unilateral actions will only speed up the descent into more violence. There must be pressure from the outside, because from the inside, things do not look promising.

As I hear of new plans for settlement construction just recently announced – 7,000 new housing units in the coming years – it is obvious that Israel is choosing settlements over peace, as usual. The settlement enterprise is at the heart of the conflict, yet the government will keep building if history has told us anything. This policy has been in place since the late 1960s even though it goes against world consensus, international law, and a portion of Israelis including prominent figures such as a senior military commander who recently came out against settler violence in the West Bank.

Referring to the increasing number of settler attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, Major General Avi Mizrahi stated that "What's happening in the field is terrorism". He went on to say that "terrorism against Palestinians is likely to ignite the territories."

Due to the asymmetry of the conflict, it is inevitable that negotiations will continue to fail. And for the time being, it is unclear whether the Palestinian UN bid for statehood will make any difference, especially since the US will do everything within its power to see that it fails. For now, it seems as if taking part in the BDS campaign represents the only inkling of hope that will inch us along the road towards justice. This is why being aware of the things we are buying and supporting back home, wherever that may be, is so important. And now that Israel has passed the Anti-Boycott Bill, making it illegal for anyone within Israel to support the boycotts of settlement goods, or Israeli goods in general, it is even more crucial for the international community to do something, at the very least to be aware that "every dollar you spend is a vote".

Similar boycott campaigns were used during apartheid in South Africa in the 1980s and they played a large role in garnering international support and bringing down the system that discriminated against blacks. It was a concerted effort from the grassroots consisting of churches, unions, students and consumers who all took a stand against what was happening. One of the leading anti-apartheid activists in South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has repeatedly compared the Israeli occupation to South African apartheid and he states that "if apartheid ended, so can this occupation, but the moral force and international pressure will have to be just as determined".

The settlements and the violence that stems from them, the products they produce on Palestinian land using vital Palestinian resources, and the state that directly supports them must be boycotted in every way possible. We must educate ourselves about what we have been indirectly supporting and take action through how we spend our money. Because those who hold all the power will not change unless movements like this one force them to.

Meg Walsh is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at mid@miftah.org.


:: Article nr. 80073 sent on 31-jul-2011 05:59 ECT

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