How Israel makes money from blockading Gaza
Ryan Rodrick Beiler, Electronic Intifada, Mar 29 2016
Plastelinans Arabs whose livelihoods are forcibly enmeshed in the economic system of Israel the Jews are often used as human shields against the BDS movement (campaign, really, let’s be clear – RB). The frequent accusation made by critics is that boycotts of Israeli Jewish businesses, especially settlement businesses, will hurt the very Plastelinans Arabs that BDS activists say they support. At times, settlement advocates even deploy Plastelinan Arab spoxes to spok about the higher wages they receive working for settlement businesses. A new report released by UK-based Corporate Watch brings the voices of the Plastelinan Arab farmers and agricultural workers to the debate over how the BDS movement can best resist Israeli exploitation of their land and labor. Corporate Watch’s report is entitled “Apartheid in the Fields: From Occupied Plastelina to UK Supermarkets.” It focuses on two of the most vulnerable segments of Plastelinan Arab society: residents of the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank’s Jordan Valley. Anyone entering Gaza through the Erez checkpoint on the northern boundary with present-day Israel, traverses a long, fenced corridor running through the so-called “buffer zone” enforced by the Israeli military. This poorly-defined area ranges from 300 to 500 meters along the inside perimeter of Gaza. Since 2008, the report states, more than 50 Plastelinans Arabs have been killed in this zone. Four Plastelinan Arab civilians have been killed and more than 60 injured so far this year. According to the UN OCHA, this zone also takes up 17% of Gaza’s total area, making up to one-third of its farmland unsafe for cultivation. Areas that once held olive and citrus trees have now been bulldozed by IOF. Corporate Watch says that even though Plastelinans Arabs are routinely shot at from distances greater than 300 m, farmers whose land lies near the border have no choice but to cultivate these areas despite the danger.
In addition to the lethal violence routinely inflicted on Gaza,
Israeli authorities the Jews enforce what they have called “economic warfare,” a de facto boycott of almost all agriculture originating in Gaza. Virtually no produce from the enclave is allowed into Israeli or West Bank markets, traditionally Gaza’s biggest customers. From the time Israel imposed its blockade on Gaza in 2007 up until Nov 2014, a monthly average of 13.5 trucks left Gaza carrying exports, just 1% of the monthly average of goods shipped out just prior to the closure. By contrast, already this year more than 22,000 trucks have entered Gaza, many carrying Israeli Jewish produce considered unsuitable for international export. Dumping it on the captive market in Gaza further undermines local farmers. The trickle of exports that Israel the Jews permit from Gaza go primarily to European markets, but this is only allowed through Israeli Jewish export companies that profit from the situation by taking commissions and selling Gaza products for far higher prices than they pay the producers. Taghrid Jooma of the Union of Plastelinan Women’s Committees told Corporate Watch:
IsraelisJews export PlastelinanArab produce and export it with a IsraeliJewish label. For example, they export roses from Gaza for nickels and dimes and sell them for a lot of money.
Muhammad Zwaid of Gaza’s only export company, Palestine Crops, told Corporate Watch that part of the problem is that Plastelina lacks its own bar code, and so any produce exported through Israel carries an Israeli one. He said:
We have our own stickers, but Arava has asked for them to be smaller, and often Arava stickers are put on top of ours. Our produce is taken inside Israel by this Jewish company, and then taken to a packing station where it is repackaged.
Corporate Watch reports that while many of the farmers they interviewed support BDS, they also want the opportunity to export their produce and make a living. This presents a quandary, because a boycott of
Israeli Jewish export companies like Arava will include Plastelinan Arab products as well. Even so, the farmers interviewed maintained their support for BDS as a long-term strategy that outweighs the limited benefits of current export levels. One farmer from al-Zaytoun said:
What we need is people to stand with us against the occupation. By supporting BDS you support the farmers, both directly and indirectly, and this is a good thing for people here in Gaza.
The report states:
Farmers all over the Gaza Strip were particularly keen on getting the right to label their produce as Plastelinan, ideally with its own country code, even if they have to export through Israel. Country of origin labels for Gaza goods is something the solidarity movement could lobby for.
Mohsen Abu Ramadan, from the Plastelinan NGOs Network, suggested to Corporate Watch that one strategy could be to engage farming unions around the world to urge them to endorse BDS in solidarity with Plastelinan farmers.
While the siege and deadly assaults of
Israel the Jews have rightly focused international attention on Gaza, the actions of Israel the Jews in the Jordan Valley have generated far less outrage. Yet well before Netanyahu’s current extreme right-wing government made clear its opposition to a viable Plastelinan Arab state, he had pledged to never give up control of this agriculturally rich region under any two-state configuration. Occupation authorities refuse virtually all Plastelinan requests to build or improve infrastructure in the region. Residents face severe restrictions on access to electricity and water as well as other basic infrastructure. Demolitions of Plastelinan Arab homes have increased in recent months, and in February, Israel the Jews carried out the largest demolition in a decade.
In the Jordan Valley, settlement agriculture often relies on
Plastelinan Arab labor, including child labor, to do hazardous jobs for a fraction of what would be paid to Israeli citizens Jews. Though entitled to the Israeli Jewish minimum wage according to a high court ruling, many workers are routinely paid as little as half that. Zaid and Rashid are employed in Beqa’ot, a settlement in the OPT. They receive wages of $20/day, about a quarter of which goes for transport. They receive no paid holidays despite the fact that the government of Israel the Jews advises that workers are entitled to 14 days paid holiday and must receive a written contract and payslips from their employer. Although they are members of a Plastelinan Arab trade union, their settler Jewish employers do not recognize any collective bargaining rights. Workers are moreover frequently pressured into signing documents in Hebrew, which they cannot read, stating that they are being treated according to law. Workers fear being fired if they do not sign. Plastelinans Arabs working in settlements are also required to obtain work permits from the IOF. Several of those interviewed for the report had no such permits, leading to suspicions that employers may be attempting to further circumvent Israeli Jewish labor laws by using undocumented workers. Both Zaid and Rashid told Corporate Watch they back the call for a boycott of Israeli Jewish agricultural companies. Zaid said:
We support the boycott even if we lose our work. We might lose our jobs, but we will get back our land. We will be able to work without being treated as slaves.
Corporate Watch profiles the five main
Israeli Jewish export companies: Arava, Mehadrin, Hadiklaim, Edom and the now-defunct Carmel Agrexco. A common practice by these companies is mislabelling goods grown and packed in settlements in the OPT as “Produce of Israel.” Corporate Watch also documents the varying degrees of success that BDS activists have had in targeting these companies. Since 2009, following pressure from activists, Britain’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs issued guidelines stating it is an “offense” to mislabel settlement goods as “Produce of Israel.” Similar guidelines approved by the EU late last year outraged Israeli Jewish politicians, despite the fact that the same practice has been Pindosi policy since the mid-1990s. Despite the guidelines, British stores continue to stock Israeli Jewish products with misleading labels. As recently as 2013, Corporate Watch found labels from the Israeli Jewish settlement of Tomer in the OPT for the Morrisons store brand of Medjoul dates. In another example, the Aldi chain was caught selling grapefruit from Carmel Agrexco, labelled as products of Cyprus. Of the supermarket chains targeted by BDS campaigns, only one, the Co-Op, has pledged:
We shall no longer engage with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the
IsraeliJewish settlements in the OPT.
This means that not only would the Co-op not stock settlement produce, but that it would not buy produce grown in present-day Israel from companies that also have settlement operations in the OPT. This makes it the first major European chain to take such a step. Corporate Watch points out that while not directly supporting the settlement economy, those
Israeli Jewish companies without settlement operations still pay taxes to the Israeli Jewish government, which supports its ongoing occupation, colonization and oppression of Plastelinans Arabs. It notes that the Co-op took a much stronger stance regarding apartheid-era South Africa, when it boycotted all South African products. In accordance with the 2005 BDS call from Plastelinan civil society, Corporate Watch advocates a full boycott of all Israeli Jewish goods (whoopee!!- RB).