Saturday, 28 February 2009

Settlers and Supermarkets

As promised, I elected to research for myself the extent of Israel-supporting companies and products on the high streets that we can carry out the small action of boycotting. As I said earlier, this should be a targeted campaign aimed not only at not boycotting the products in silence, but also ensuring that we tell the companies involved that we are boycotting their products coupled with making awareness within the wider communities that we are all a part of around the world. Today it is the turn of the supermarkets.

As I am from the United Kingdom, I have focussed upon the supermarkets present in this country. However, if someone wishes to add to this article in the future regarding other supermarket chains in different parts of the world, please let me know and I will add them to the list provided evidence is sent with the request.

In order to understand the supermarkets complicity with the Israeli occupation, we must first understand the nature of the suppliers. A great deal of fruit and vegetables, particularly Peppers and dates, is supplied from the so-called “occupied territories” and we may differ as to what extent Israel is occupying the land of Palestine. I take the view that the entire appropriation of land since 1948 is illegal, however some may hold the view that any land post-1967 is occupied. Either way, the same rules apply as most of the products are manufactured within settlements in the West Bank.

Now, as for the reality of these settlements, they have to be read to be believed. The first is the random violence they dish out upon the muslims (and Christians for that matter) of Palestine, knowing that they have state support. A Christian peacemaker team gave the following account on 20th November 2008 in Havat Ma’on :-
“Fifteen masked Israeli settlers from the illegal outpost of Havat Ma'on attacked three Palestinian shepherds who were grazing their flocks in a valley south of the outpost, and Christian peacemakers who were with them. The settlers came running down from a ridge above the shepherds, hurling rocks. The shepherds were able to get their flocks away before the rocks injured them.During the incident, the settlers were able to steal two of the shepherds' donkeys. The settlers killed one donkey with a knife wound in the chest area. They slashed another across the throat, but the donkey survived.”

A quick google search will reveal hundreds of such incidents, in which Settlers seemingly for sport seem to hunt Palestinians who are trying to survive on meagre resources.

They are also diverting much needed water from Palestinian communities in order to fund their excessive lifestyles. One report in 2007 identified that a pipe supplying a well in a Palestinian village was cut, with the water being used to fill a swimming pool for one settler. As each illegal settlement is made, the first actions are to cut the supply for Palestinian villages ( for example, 4000 homes were left without water after one settlement in 2006 ), and then eventually the Palestinians negotiate with the Israeli state as intermediary in order to get their own water back.

There is also the issue of destroying crops and engaging in a “Scorched-earth” policy. They cut olive trees and burn them in order to claim the land is disused, which of course the Israeli courts provide support to substantiate the claims. They often will build roads through olive farms, claiming that one side of the road is theres and the other is the Palestinians.

It is in this background that settlement products are making their way to british high streets in packages labelled “Palestine”, and though we acknowledge the Israelis for affirming that settlement land is Palestinian land, it gives the false impression that these goods are produced by Palestinians. They are made to profit Israeli farmers with water that has been stolen from Palestinians, on land that has been occupied against Palestinians and by individuals that harass and assault Palestinians. The label is an insult to the Palestinian people, just one more brick in the wall of denial and heartbreak that they have been experiencing since 1948.

So, the supermarkets that are involved in this through their greed without morals are Sainsburys, Tescos, Marks and Spencers and Waitrose. They are all supplied by settlement farmers with dates, peppers, herbs and other items. The suppliers are Hadiklaim and Arava. Both of these Israeli companies are complicit in the exploitation and appropriation of Palestinian crops. This was discovered by a report commissioned for the “Sir Joseph Hotung Programme” within the School of Oriental and African Studies.

So what can we do about it? The hardline approach is to boycott the entire supermarkets. With the exception of Marks and Spencers whom have many more stains against their cloth, I do not believe this is feasible nor practical. Instead we should boycott those products from the stores that are labelled “Israel” OR “Palestine”. We should write to these supermarkets, outlining our objections to these goods being supplied within the stores. We should also educate others about the realities of settler-produced goods and the ethics involved in eating peppers provided through deceit and stolen resources.

This I believe should have an effect. Supermarkets are motivated by profits being a capitalist industry, and they will respond in these troubled times if even 10% of their consumers defect to purchasing products from more ethical suppliers. Israeli goods rotting unsold on shelves will soon force these companies to make the right business decision and should see the restoration of fruit and vegetables that are not tainted by the brush of illegal occupation.

I will be writing a sample letter to send out in the next few days, if anyone has further information on any of the details above or would like references, please do get in touch.

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