could be hit by boycott
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
11 April 2002
JERUSALEM - Ahava cosmetics are among the popular Israeli products
that are at the heart of a growing dispute between Europe and the
Ahava products, which are sold in stores around the world, are
produced in Mitzpeh Shalem, a West Bank settlement. Since they are
not produced within Israel's pre-1967 borders, some European Union
officials believe the cosmetics line is not covered by a free trade
agreement that allows Israeli products to enter 15 E.U. countries
without tariffs. The European Union now is threatening to impose
tariffs on Israeli goods produced in eastern Jerusalem, the Golan
Heights and settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israel staunchly disagrees, saying that the free-trade accord covers
all Israeli products, and has charged the Europeans with seeking
to use economic blackmail to weigh in on the stalled peace process.
The Council of Ministers, the European Union's executive body, was
originally scheduled to discuss the matter Monday, but postponed
it until June 8.
The idea of targeting certain Israeli products did not originate
in Europe. Last September, a newly formed group called Gush Shalom
released a list of goods manufactured in the territories, as well
as in eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, urging the public
not to buy them. "Every shekel we pay for a settlement product
strengthens the settlers and their radical leaders," Uri Avneri,
a journalist and former Knesset member who founded Gush Shalom,
said in an interview this week.
At first the boycott call was ignored in Israel. Then it became
a target for attacks by settlers and their allies, which focused
light on Gush Shalom's move. The boycott call spread through the
Internet and received international attention. The call, however,
has not yet hit home in Israel.
"I never realized that Barkan wine came from the West Bank,"
said Nava Mizrahi, who was shopping at a Jerusalem supermarket.
In fact, many Israelis do not immediately realize that Modan bags,
popular among travelers and schoolchildren, are produced in the
West Bank settlement of Shaked or that Pladelet steel doors are
made in the Barkan industrial area, located between the West Bank
Palestinian towns of Kalkiliya and Nablus. Popular goods produced
on the Golan include several leading wines, the Ramat Hagolan dairy
products and Mai Eden mineral water.
While the settlers have not felt threatened by Gush Shalom, the
European initiative is a different matter. At stake is an estimated
$200 million worth of goods, mainly agricultural produce, that are
exported annually from settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Several
weeks ago the European Commission issued a document suggesting it
had grounds to believe that Israel was violating its agreement with
the European Union by exporting goods that originate in territories
beyond Israel proper. And it also claimed to have evidence that
many goods manufactured in Jewish settlements were being exported
to Europe as products made in Israel.
The European threat has triggered angry reactions among settler
leaders, who have gone as far to compare it to the boycott of Jewish
products during the Nazi era.
[Appeared in Jewish News of Greater Phoenix]