Effective resistance to illegal occupation

Daily News Egypt
5 Min Read

The Palestinian campaign to boycott settlement products is enjoying exceptionally high levels of enthusiasm and support from all sectors of Palestinian society. It is also garnering sympathy and understanding from a wide range of members of the international community.

Indeed, the campaign has met with no criticism from any non-Israeli party. It has been understood correctly as simply one component of a wide range of peaceful, legitimate and non-violent activities that reject the Israeli occupation and its clearest expression, illegal Jewish settlement in occupied territory. These, it is well to bear in mind, have been identified as the most dangerous obstacle to peace-making efforts by almost every single country in the world.

The Palestinian government is currently in the middle of implementing, successfully, its program to end the occupation and establish an independent Palestinian state. After its initial successes in the security field, the government is now focusing on developing an economy that can serve as the backbone of such a state. As part of this effort, the government hopes to substitute all or most of the products that are made in settlements — whose market share is around US$200 million a year — with Palestinian products, or products that are imported, including from Israel.

While the nervous, if not pathological, reaction the boycott has elicited was expected from settler groups, it was intriguing to note that in all Israeli reactions, whether official or from the business sector, no differentiation was made between products made in Israel, which the Palestinians continue to import and consume, and the products of settlements, which every country on earth considers illegal and dangerous to the prospects of peace.

It is alarming to the Palestinian side to see that the Israeli mainstream does not differentiate between Israeli products and settlement products and, consequently, between Israel and settlements. If Israel is serious about the current peace negotiations, it must understand that ultimately the outcome of this process has to be a Palestinian state on the land where these settlements are. The peace that Israel claims to aspire to would thus require the dismantlement of and withdrawal from these settlements.

Another irony is the sudden sympathy Israelis have exhibited toward Palestinian workers in these settlements, normally just considered cheap labor. The official Palestinian position and practice is that while settlement products are no longer allowed in occupied territory and any violation is punishable by law, the government is also trying to end the phenomenon of Palestinian labor in Israeli settlements through the gradual creation of jobs that will attract, voluntarily, those same workers.

Ultimately, Palestinians want to reach a point at which their own market is free of any settlement products and the settlements are free of any Palestinian labor. This, hopefully, will be a step toward ensuring that the Palestinian territories become free of any Israeli presence, including settlements.

Palestinians are hopeful that a boycott of settlements in all ways will gradually spread to other countries. This may be the most effective way of "convincing" Israel to bring an end to this illegal phenomenon in occupied territories, i.e., the settlements, in a way and language that is clear to everyone.

For Israel to begin to make a clear distinction between settlements and itself, the outside world must make this distinction. A boycott of the products of settlements is a good start. Ultimately, this will benefit all those interested in peace.

Ghassan Khatib is coeditor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications and director of the Government Media Center. This article represents his personal views. This article is published by Daily News Egypt in collaboration with bitterlemons.org.

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