April 2, 2007
The latest report of the International Development Select Committee regarding the Occupied Palestinian Territories (31 January 2007) makes for very distressing reading. In its section on trade, it refers to the ongoing restrictions in movements and access faced by the OPT, citing an OXFAM report which points out “that transaction costs for Palestinians wishing to export products are up to 70% higher than for Israelis exporting the same product. This market benefit is also true of products produced by Israeli settlers in the West Bank who can get direct access to markets in or through Israel without the disruptive road blocks and back-to-back transfers faced by the Palestinians.
In addition, Palestinians face a range of regulations which do not appear to be linked to security. Moreover, the Palestinians are obliged to rely on Israeli intermediaries to transport their goods and therefore, do not pay purchase taxes and customs to the Palestinian Authority, which creates further losses to the economy of 3% of the GDP a year. The report concludes that “the viability of a future Palestinian economy depends significantly on its trading opportunities.”
In order to challenge the stronghold Israel has on Palestine and its fledgling economy, a group of Jewish and Israeli residents in Britain was set up as a subsection of the campaign undertaken by Boycott Israeli Goods – BIG. The new group, BIG, is an outcome of the deep frustration Jewish peace activists feel towards the inaction displayed by the Jewish community […[. J-BIG members believe that Israel’s policies “constitute a betrayal of the best trends in Jewish ethical tradition” and operate a form of racism which is reminiscent of South African Apartheid – inflaming hatreds that render impossible the achievement of a just peace for both Israelis and Palestinians. Like ‘Enough!’ – the new coalition of trade unions, peace, faith and human right organisations in Britain- J-BIG believes that the British Government fails to stand up for the right of the Palestinian people and thus, calls for a consorted grass roots action. Along with the wider BIG campaign, members take part in direct action aiming to prevent the marketing and selling of goods and produce originating from the [...] settlements in the West Bank and from Israeli companies, especially those which are known to profit from the unlawful occupation.
J-BIG’s strength is in the fact that being Jewish, they are unlikely to encounter charges of Anti-Semitism, made frequently by the Jewish community against those who criticise Israel’s policies. At the same time, they hope that their stance will act as a “wake- up” call for the Jewish community in Britain and offer some symbolic support to the Palestinians who tend to regard the Jewish community as a keen champion of Israel’s policies. They hope that their actions will help attract greater publicity for the BIG campaign. Indeed, a recent picketing of Carmel- Agrexco, an Israeli marketing company, gained much publicity in the Jewish and Israeli press.
Carmel-Agrexco is a 50% Israeli state-owned export company which is responsible for exporting the majority of fruit and vegetables from [...] settlements in the West Bank to the UK. The UK forms a large part of the market for settlement produce, making up 60% of Agrexco’s total exports. Agrexco profits from [...] the occupied Palestinian territories. In the Jordan Valley of the West Bank, Agrexco set its farms on confiscated Palestinian land offering Palestinian farmers less than a living wage. Carmel-Agrexco can deliver fruits and vegetables to Europe in 24 hours while the produce of Palestinian farmers cannot get through the [...] Israeli military checkpoints and has to be left to rot in the field. [...]
Note from Rafik Beekun: Here is an example of what Palestinians produce in addition to agricultural products, and again how an American Jewish businessman is trying to help promote peace among Israelis and Palestinians.
No Sweat Apparel Video from Al-Jazeera:
Olive Oil Advertisement from Palestine:
However, please note that Israeli authorities have been uprooting or destroying olive trees from Palestine, and this threatens the very survival of the Palestinian Olive farmers. It is important to note again that brave Israeli activists have joined with Palestinian farmers to oppose the destruction of the olive groves by the Israeli army.
Olive Grove Destruction Being Opposed by Israeli Activists and Palestinians
The BIG movement and the above opposition efforts on the part of these Jewish and Israeli activists are very much in the spirit of Judaism. As Hillel said:
“What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow-human” that is the whole Torah, the rest is commentary. (Shabbos, 21a).
Please click here to read the article on “Rabbis for Human Rights“.