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Boycott matters

Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 12.09.2014:

Toine van Teeffelen

Bethlehem

12/9/2014

At the entrance of ‘Azza refugee camp in front of our house is a large ‘Boycott Israel’ painting. I can see it through the window while typing. After the horrible bloodshed in Gaza, Mary, the kids and I decided not to buy anymore any Israeli products in the nearby supermarket.

That’s not so easy because the shops here are full of Israeli products, as a result of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the 1990s (the so-called Paris Protocols, associated with the Oslo agreements), which in practice gives Israeli products preferential treatment.

Still, you can buy Palestinian rather than Israeli dairy products. Buying Palestinian rather than Israeli vegetables is almost impossible.

At the supermarket I noticed that immediately after the Gaza killings the owner shifted Palestinian products towards the front and Israeli products somewhat to the back. The previous weeks featured many boycott discussions among Palestinians, both among authorities (like the mayors) and among political factions and other groups.

In the supermarket, Mary shared a discussion among customers and the owner. The owner said he was in principle in support of the boycott, but from where to bring Arab products to replace the Israeli ones? A customer said that it was the children who wanted Israeli products; they thought these products were better.

Mary didn’t agree and said that the parents made the choices. Jara enjoys eating the Palestinian yogurt, At school the majority of her class supported the boycott. But I notice that once again Israeli products have been placed a bit more prominently on the supermarket’s shelves.

Is the owner less happy now we buy Palestinian products? The Palestinian products are cheaper. You pay less at the end, especially for the milk (which is as good as the Israeli Tnuva milk). Perhaps the profit for the supermarkets is less.

On the other hand, when West Bankers would not buy anymore in the Jerusalem malls during the occasions they enter Jerusalem, this would be of enormous benefit to the local shops in Bethlehem and other places in the West Bank. Mary says that the widely held opinion that Israeli products are better than Palestinian ones is in most cases not true.

A representative of a peace movement in the UK tells me that it would make a difference for actions in Britain and elsewhere when Palestinians would give an example in boycotting Israeli products, even if only a well-chosen selection of items.

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