Some in the West Bank buy Israeli products simply because they are better
Palestinians are apparently divided on the need and effectiveness of the economic pressure on Israel that is being implemented via the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The BDS movement, as it describes itself in its Palestinian website, aims to “to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law” and end the occupation of Palestinian territories.
“I will not boycott Israeli products if I don’t have a suitable alternative, I would love to support our local products, but they are not always good enough,” a Palestinian student told The Media Line on a condition of anonymity. He explained that as long as he lives in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, it would be hard not to buy Israeli products.
“If I lived abroad, it would be much easier to be part of the BDS movement and even encourage people to support it,” he continued, “but the Palestinian market doesn’t have the capacity to expand or provide opportunities for the people here.”
Saadeh, 25, who asked The Media Line not to use her first name, went even further saying that she does not see the need for the BDS movement, “I don’t boycott and I’m not going to, although I understand that there are reasons for people to do so.”
However, other Palestinians believe that the BDS movement is a very important and effective tool to weaken Israel worldwide. Speaking to The Media Line, Jalal Abukhater, 23, who is part of the BDS movement in Ramallah, contended that boycotting Israel gives ordinary people the chance to demonstrate peacefully for what they believe in and, at the same time, influence others by presenting a strong message to the world.
“It’s a non-violent tool of systematically avoiding economic, political and cultural ties with Israel,” he explained, “a lot of international companies have reconsidered working with Israel after this impacted negatively on their reputations.”
Boycott is not a new idea, pro-Palestinian activists all around the world have been demanding that the international community impose an embargo on Israeli companies or foreign companies that support or profit from Israel. Following anther violent confrontation between Israel and Gaza in 2014, a demonstration took place in the West Bank capital Ramallah that marked the beginning of an official Palestinian boycott of Israeli products for the first time in decades.
The purpose of BDS campaign in Ramallah is to match the success of the comprehensive international embargo that helped end apartheid in South Africa. The BDS boycotters claim that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is similar to how the blacks were treated in white-run South Africa.
When contacted by The Media Line, the founder of the BDS movement in Ramallah, refused to comment.
Some Palestinians do not consider the local BDS effort to be effective. Amnah, a social worker who asked The Media Line not to use her last name, explained that the Palestinian boycott is “not a big deal,” especially as the Palestinians products “are not tasty.” Echoing this sentiment, a pharmacist, who asked The Media Line not to use her name, complained about the poor quality of Palestinian produce, particularly, she claimed, milk products.
“I encourage people to boycott Israeli medicines, since there is a separate [inferior] production line for the products sent to the West Bank,” she asserted, “I think, powerful Palestinians should start with boycotting Israeli electricity and currency, instead of asking the rest to boycott food and clothes.”
Grassroots activist Abukhater, believes that the BDS movement needs commitment and more players especially Palestinians, noting that recently big international banks have been boycotting Israeli companies, “the next step is that the Palestinian government should impose a boycott.”
The latest anti-Israel boycott effort came at the end of September, when UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, a Jordanian, sent letters to companies in Israel and around the world, warning them not to do business with Jewish “settlements” in the West Bank, otherwise they would be placed on a blacklist. According to Israeli press reports, the list includes American companies such as Coca-Cola, Caterpillar, and TripAdvisor.