Boycott news from issue 121 of Ethical Consumer November/December 2009
Boycott Israel Special
Reflecting an upsurge in activity around boycotts targeting Israel, our Boycotts News page in this issue focusses solely on updating you on boycotts in this area.
Israel boycotts in France illegal?
In late July Jean-Claude Willem, Mayor of Seclin in French, lost his case in the European court of human rights. He was appealing a French court decision, made in 2002, to fine him 1,000 Euros for imposing a boycott of Israeli goods in government run institutions in his town.
He had wanted his municipality to stop trading with the Israeli state over its treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. However the French state took exception because it claimed that it discriminated on grounds of nationality and only the state had the power to boycott another state.
The European court ruled in favour of the French court saying the Mayor “was not entitled to take the place of the governmental authorities by declaring an embargo on products from a foreign country.” The court did not rule however that it is illegal or discriminatory for individuals to boycott Israeli goods or that it was illegal for the French state to boycott Israeli goods, as has been reported by some sections of the press.
Protesters in New York have called for a boycott of Motorola over the firm's business dealings with the Israel Defence Forces (IDF). Motorola has been active in Israel since 1964, and it currently provides the IDF with a cellular network through a subsidiary, MIRS. MIRS has provided the IDF with a military-encrypted cellular communication system, nicknamed "Mountain Rose," which is worth $100 million and was especially constructed for field conditions.
Aaron Levitt of New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, told the newspaper Haaretz "Every time we go out to leaflet, we meet many people who express support for the campaign and even sign our pledge to boycott Motorola,"
The International Cultural Boycott
Since April 2004, The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott (PACBI) has called on intellectuals and academics worldwide to "comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel's occupation, colonization and system of apartheid." 2 Many, such as cultural icon Ken Loach, have lent their support to this campaign.
PACBI has recently issued new guidelines to help determine what is and what isn't to be boycotted. They say that “as a general overriding rule, virtually all Israeli cultural institutions, unless proven otherwise, are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights, whether through their silence or actual involvement in justifying, whitewashing or otherwise deliberately diverting attention from Israel's violations of international law and human rights.
Accordingly, these institutions, all their products, and all the events they sponsor or support should be boycotted. Events and projects involving individuals explicitly representing these institutions should also be avoided, by the same token.”
More information on the Guidelines are available from: www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1045
TUC Call for Settlement Produce Boycott
In September, the UK Trades Unions Congress (TUC) announced a boycott of Israeli goods originating from illegal settlements to press "for an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories." The Guardian reported that TUC general secretary Brendan Barber told union delegates that they "have a part to play" in seeing an end to the occupation, a dismantling of the separation wall and the removal of the illegal settlements.
Barber continued: "We believe that targeted action is the right way forward. This is not a call for a general boycott of Israeli goods and services, which would hit ordinary Palestinian and Israeli workers, but targeted, consumer-led sanctions directed at businesses based in, and sustaining, the illegal settlements... We will now try to identify goods and products where the most pressure can be put on the Israeli government to persuade them to change their policies."
Mick Shaw, the FBU president who tabled the resolution, said the statement did not go far enough. "It's not just an issue of a boycott of goods produced in illegal settlements. Firstly, we think that it's impractical. These goods do not come with a label which says 'these goods are produced on an illegal settlement'."
The Foreign Secretary David Miliband has expressed dismay that British trade unions are calling for boycotts of Israel. In July, government representatives met with union officials to “make clear the government’s firm belief that calls for boycotts of Israel cannot and do not contribute to peace”.
Neve Gordon, author of “Israel’s Occupation” and a politics lecturer at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, was called on by officials to resign from the University after he published a controversial article in the Los Angeles Times.
In the article he asked “foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel.” He described Israel as an apartheid state and said he was convinced outside pressure was the only way to help the 3.5 million Palestinians living in the occupied territories without the same legal rights as their Jewish neighbours.
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