USi editor Tim Lezard meets the founder of the Palestinian National Boycott Committee in Ramallah
A statement signed by 14 unions calls for the boycott to take place until Israel ends its occupation of Arab lands, dismantles the wall running through Jerusalem, gives Palestinians equal rights to Israelis and allows Palestinian refugees to return home.
“Palestinian workers will suffer as a result of a boycott,” concedes Omar Barghouti, the founder of the Palestinian National Boycott Committee, when we meet him in Ramallah.
“But freedom has a price and we’re prepared to pay that price. Every resistance carries a price tag. If we don’t do this, we choose either armed resistance or we surrender. And we will never surrender to the occupation as our fate.”
The boycott is also backed by Dr Mustafa Barghouti, general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative.
“We’d like British trade unionists to adopt the boycott of Israeli goods,” he tells us. “A boycott is not against the Israeli people, but against Israeli policy.”
MP Haneen Zoabi is one of a collation of 13 Arab MPs in the Knesset. We meet her in East Jerusalem, where she told us we – as UK trade unionists – have more power over her government than she does.
“It doesn’t matter what we say. The Israeli government doesn’t care about the Palestinian people, but it does care about what people in the world think of Israel.”
She wants to see a secular, equal, democratic state, saying: “We must be here as equals. You came to my homeland. It was not the Palestinians who emigrated. It was you. You want my land. You want to expel me. It is ethnic cleansing. You hope the old will die and the young will forget. We won’t forget. It is our history.
“We know our history. You don’t. We know the names of the trees. You don’t.”
She becomes very passionate when she defends her people. “You call me a terrorist because I fight back. I am not telling you to go back, but if you don’t accept I am an indigenous person, then go back. Don’t come.”
Backing the boycott, she says: “Nothing will change here, the occupation will continue until Israel pays the price, economically, politically and diplomatically.”
The main target for the boycott is Hewlett Packard, which not only profits from developing systems to racially profile Palestinians and track and control their movements, but is also complicit in the Israeli apartheid which limits the parts of the West Bank which they can access, and which restricts their freedom of movement. HP is also contracted to provide the Israeli navy’s IT infrastructure.
You can also put pressure on companies such as Ahava, G4S, Sodastream and Veolia to cancel their contracts in Israel.
Finally, agricultural produce from illegal settlements built on Palestinian land is being sold in UK supermarkets. Israel has worked hard to muddy the waters around these products in a bid to thwart the boycott. Where there were once three companies, there are now more than 500 subsidiaries. They use other tactics too, such as changing barcodes frequently and labelling the products in Hebrew so few people can understand where they’re from.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign recommends the best way to participate in the boycott is to check whether the produce says “Product of Israel” and, if it does, then put it back on the shelf in solidarity with the Palestinian people.
More details on how to support the BDS movement can be found here.
- USi editor Tim Lezard has recently returned from Palestine, where he was part of a delegation organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. USi is publishing exclusive extracts from his report in advance of its publication on September 14th. The report is funded by ASLEF and TSSA.
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