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[Boycott - Economic - World]
Dan Ephron, Newsweek
13 May 2010
Palestinians can't wreck Israel's economy by boycotting goods made in the settlements. So why are Israelis so worked up?
Bibi is not amused: Israel's government
has deported several instigators.
By presidential decree, Palestinians this month began boycotting products manufactured in Israeli settlements—part of the nonviolent campaign to end Israel's 43-year occupation of the West Bank. Considering the numbers involved and the overall strength of Israel's economy, the direct effect of the ban will probably be negligible. About 2 or 3 percent of the $44 billion in goods Israel exports are made in the settlement areas, according to estimates by economists (Israel does not break down manufacturing data by region). Of those settlement-manufactured products, only a small percentage ends up in the Palestinian market.
Yet Israeli officials have reacted sharply. At a committee meeting convened in Israel's Parliament, lawmakers proposed harsh retaliatory measures, including making it harder for Palestinians to import goods from other countries. "Our port is their oxygen tube and closing it will only hurt them, not us," said Shraga Brosh, head of the Manufacturers Association of Israel. "This way, we will show them that after their slap in the face, we will not turn the other cheek." Danny Ayalon, the deputy foreign minister, said Israel would try to prevent the Palestinian Authority from joining the World Trade Organization (as an observer) and possibly block the transfer of some European donations to Palestinians.
Israelis fear that a successful boycott of settler goods would catch on elsewhere. While consumers in the Palestinian territories lack the economic muscle to inflict much pain on Israel, their counterparts in Europe—Israel's biggest market—have plenty of leverage.
So if the direct impact is expected to be minimal, why the hysteria? For one thing, Israelis fear that a successful boycott of settler goods would catch on elsewhere. While consumers in the Palestinian territories lack the economic muscle to inflict much pain on Israel, their counterparts in Europe—Israel's biggest market—have plenty of leverage. Shir Hever, an Israeli economist who writes about the cost of Israel's occupation of the West Bank, says if Palestinians manage to assemble a comprehensive list of Israeli companies with settlement ties, that alone could jump-start a boycott campaign in Europe. Left-wing groups in Europe and the U.S. have had little success with their broader "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions" campaign, perhaps in part because it seems aimed at delegitimizing Israel generally and not just Israeli rule over Palestinians. Israelis worry that a targeted boycott of settlement-made goods—something considerably less radical—would have a better chance of gaining momentum, and they might be right.
Then there's the comfort-zone issue. Thwarting bombings and shootings requires careful intelligence work and a first-rate military, things Israel has honed for decades. Countering nonviolent action has always seemed more challenging. As a result, Israeli officials have stumbled and occasionally overreacted. When Palestinian-American Mubarak Awad, virtually unknown in the West Bank and unconnected to any political group, founded a nonviolent center in the 1980s and organized tax strikes and sit-ins, Israel deported him. Just last week, Israel deported Prado the Clown, who had arrived from Spain to organize an end-the-occupation festival in Ramallah.
Finally, boycotts stir bad memories for Israelis. For decades, the Arab League's boycott of Israel kept huge multinationals from doing business in the Jewish state, including Pepsi, McDonald's, and most of the major Japanese car companies (though not all: visitors to Israel in the 1980s might have noticed one in four cars on the road was a Subaru). It wasn't until the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo accords in 1993 that the boycott was eased (though Israeli exports are still officially banned in most Arab countries). A return to the bad old days must be a bitter pill for most Israelis. Even when it's administered by a clown.
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"[Deportation at the airport] We saw the injured [Turkish] men going through.. a lot had a leg cut out of their trousers or an arm cut out of their top. It had been cut out to treat their wounds.. they were covered in blood, blood that had been there for three days, and some of them had wounds that were still bleeding.. What upset me most was seeing the dozen men, one after another, hobbling across the terminal, with a bandaged foot. I couldn't ask them why so many of them had a bandaged foot, I couldn't ask them what had happened, because if they spoke or if any of us spoke to them the Israelis beat the injured person.. We later found out that they had these injuries on the tops of their feet from when the troops came down from the helicopter on the Mavi Marmara, and they came down firing - they had been shot from above. Some of the men that were killed were shot at close range - head and chest, but a dozen of the men who were shot, among 59 people who were shot, they were shot at the tops of their feet - the bullets were coming down.. They weren't given a wheelchair or a pair of crutches, and if any of the other passengers stood up and tried to offer [help].. that person was dragged away and smacked by these Israelis. The Israeli soldiers sat on the floor, laughed and sniggered and made every one of these Turkish men hobble and hop all the way across, some 200 metres, everyone of them, one by one, made to do that purely for the sick amusement of the Israeli soldiers."
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