Supermarket madness

Posted on 14 August 2010

There’s a lot of talk outside of Palestine about Palestinians boycotting settlement goods. Yesterday’s Ha’aretz ran another story on it in which is mentioned 3,000 volunteers going door-to-door to explain the boycott to people. No one has been to our home, nor to anyone else’s that I know of. And we certainly haven’t had any leaflets.

The article also mentions that the boycott is having an effect, but it’s hard to know just how much. After all, given the proposed law to make boycotting Israeli goods illegal, I wonder how much of the Israelis’ protest about this is to pave the way for compensation claims.

There is also some difference of opinion here as to how useful this boycott actually is. Quite a few people think it’s just a story for the media, for those outside Palestine. (The PA trying to catch up with the recent successes of the international BDS movement.) Inside it makes no difference. Given that so much food and many other products are from Israel, boycotting just the settlements hardly seems worth it.

During the first Intifada there was a comprehensive boycott of all Israeli products, whether from the illegal settlements or from Israel itself. The public supported it and the PLO supported it. People were encouraged and they became creative and entrepreneurial.

Until this time, Palestinians had been so dependent on Israel there was little in the way of local food production. If they had a small plot of land, they were taught to grow their own vegetables. Almost overnight chicken farms sprang up across the occupied territories, providing eggs and meat. In Hebron, the Al Juneidi dairy was established, the first ever.

So today’s boycott seems rather pointless. It also doesn’t seem to be that rigourously enforced either, despite what the PA is saying. Just a veneer obscuring the reality of daily life here.

And, of course, there is the wonderful Rami Levy Shivok Hashikma chain of supermarkets that operate in the settlements. It is a bizarre contradiction that a significant number of Palestinians now shop there regularly. J and I visited the one near the Gush Etzion junction. All customers were treated equally. There was no special security check reserved for non-Jews. Palestinians even work there (for the same salary, so I’ve been told).

We struggled to understand why some Palestinians feel it is acceptable to shop here. Too much of society seems to have lost its notion of solidarity. And this places a heavy burden on those Palestinians who are trying so strenuously to achieve positive change.

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