|A CALL TO BOYCOTT ISRAELI PRODUCTS:
By Uli Schmetzer
ROVIGNO, June 6, 2010 - In the wake of Israel’s deadly raid on unarmed peace activists and its continued blockade of Gaza the time has come to express international indignation by a citizens’ boycott of Israeli goods.
For years it has been obvious no western government has the political courage to impose official sanctions on Israeli products and that the United States, virtually ruled by pro-Israeli interests and bureaucrats, is unlikely to punish, even admonish, a country converted into America’s Middle East fortress and financed to a great extent by Jewish interests in the USA.
Though one shuns boycotts since they often bring hardship to both sides there is no visible alternative after sixty years of peace initiatives and promises to transfer sovereignty to Palestinians have turned out to be fictitious, mere band aids to acquiesce international public opinion. Instead Israel each year has retched up its brutal policy towards the Palestinians culminating in the current three year long blockade of the one and half million inhabitants of Gaza who have been condemned to survive on bare essentials, have no rights and are allowed no materials to rebuild their bombed homes.
Not even chocolates or sweets are allowed into Gaza.
Today it must be left to the conscience of every concerned citizen around the world to reject Israeli products since it can be argued their purchase sustains a policy of assassinations, land grabbing and a siege that has left Gaza as an urban concentration camp and sixty per cent of the West Bank as occupied territory.
The path to a boycott has already been paved by little Norway, a nation never short of courage when it comes to defending human rights. Oslo has withdrawn its Pension Fund investments in the Elbyt System, the Israeli company which participates in the construction of what the Israelis call ‘Defense Wall’ but the world knows as the ‘Apartheid Wall,’ separating Israelis from Palestinians while annexing in the process 13 per cent of Palestinian land.
The British government has also ruled there must be stickers of origin on goods coming from the Occupied Territories.
The same demand was made by the popular Italian supermarket chain Coop.
These measures against products made by settlers in the West Bank have already been effective. More then ten settler concerns had to close down in recent weeks.
But only a global boycott on all Israeli products is likely to break the defiance and arrogance of a country that continues to make the most preposterous claims to ‘explain the unexplainable’ and continues to portray itself as the victim, the others as the aggressors.
It was a blatant lie that a Freedom Flotilla taking a cargo of humanitarian aid to Gaza carried arms. And it was a blatant lie that unarmed peace activists viciously attacked well-trained and well-armed boarding parties of crack Israeli navy commandoes. There is no doubt some of the activists took up sticks, even knives, after they saw the commandoes shoot dead their comrades. Not everyone is prepared to be slaughtered without resistance.
And it was a blatant lie the commandoes fired only at legs. All nine activists killed were shot in the chest or head. An Israeli-Palestinian Knesset member aboard the raided vessel claimed the shootings were ‘executions’ and the commandoes appeared to have a ‘blacklist’ of who to eliminate. All those killed were Turks or of Turkish origin.
But the formidable world-wide Israeli propaganda machine tells a different story. For days the Israelis made sure only their version of events reached the international audience while activist witnesses aboard the boarded vessels were kept incommunicado in detention centers. In the meantime Israeli military and civilian spokespersons painted a fairytale picture of their commandoes under lethal threat by unarmed peace activists on board the flagship of the flotilla. Ironically many of these pacifist ‘warriors’ were elderly intellectuals famous for their doctrine of passive resistance and non-violent ideals.
This kind of Israeli say-so dominates the international media. To force Israel to abide by international rules and lift its blockade on Gaza a boycott of Israeli products is imperative. Such a boycott would be far more effective then the habitual threats of individual countries to reduce or cut diplomatic ties or withdraw, temporarily, their ambassador. All such ‘diplomatic’ gestures have never and will never hurt Israel.
A citizens’ boycott would also determine just how many people around the world still care about what happens to others and whether Israel’s perennial portrayal of itself as the innocent victim of terrorist aggression has been universally accepted. For years now both the United States and Israel have stoked and exploited the fear of terrorism to justify their brutal military interventions and the passage of a plethora of anti-terrorist laws curbing individual rights.
The time has come to act following the abominable raid on the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ which was certainly not a scare attack gone wrong as liberal Israelis tend to explain but a well prepared and well-planned operation with the apparent knowledge of the U.S. administration. President Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, the link man to Israel, was in Tel Aviv talking to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a week before the raid on the flotilla.
The real purpose of the deadly raid was two-fold: One to scare off further international pro-Gaza crusades; two to torpedo President Obama’s rapprochement with Turkey which he had considered a key ally in the Middle East and an important component in western efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear capability. Why else would the commandoes single out for ‘elimination’ nine Turks among the dozens of different nationals represented on board?
(Israel this month boasted its navy kept two German-built submarines carrying nuclear missiles off the Iranian coast, ready to go into action. This militant Israeli stance now apparently substitutes Turkey’s diplomatic efforts to reign-in Iran’s nuclear developments by peaceful negotiations.)
And there is no need to point out the diplomatic fallout from this well-planned raid on a Turkish-flagged ship in international waters. The operation not only alienated Turkey but has once again wiped off the table Middle East peace talks to which the Netanyahu administration pays only lip service and which every past Israeli administration has short-circuited by militant actions each time the specter of peace and a settlement vaguely threatened to bear flesh.
It seems ludicrous that Israel, perhaps the world’s best-armed nation, insists if it lifts the siege on Gaza the Hamas government on the Gaza Strip will rearm itself and attack their nation, a country fortified with a nuclear arsenal. Even Hamas, fanatical as it is, could not be that foolhardy. The retaliation would wipe it from the face of the earth.
After sixty years of failed diplomatic attempts to persuade Israel to make a deal with the Palestinians it is time to bring some economic pressure on the reluctant Jewish State. The timing for a boycott might be right. Israel’s sponsor, the United States, is having its own economic troubles and American public opinion may not sanction another multi-billion dollar bail-out for America’s pugnacious Middle East ally.
A former foreign correspondent for Reuters and the Chicago Tribune
is the author of ‘Gaza’ and ‘Times of Terror’
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