Where are the calls for economic sanctions against real human rights abusers?
China employs slave labor and illegally occupies Tibet. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the governments of the entire Arab Middle East are violators of human rights, deniers of religious freedom, and for that matter, undemocratic to boot. And yet, none of these miscreant states are subjected to economic boycott. Israel’s products, however, originating in the biblical regions of Judea and Samaria (also called the West Bank), are being boycotted by none other than the German government. Germany now says it supports the European Union's plan to discriminatively label Jewish-made products in this region, the purpose of which is to stigmatize and mark the products for consumers to avoid. The EU campaign is designed to curry favor with the Arab world, which smacks more than anything of Jew-hating.
Ironically, in their senseless pandering, the Germans and the other Europeans have failed to evaluate the consequences of the boycott on the very people they allegedly seek to protect - the Arab Palestinians. Reacting to a UN panel, which reportedly considered sanctioning Israel for expanding settlements by banning imports of West Bank goods, Yigal Palmor, Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman told the Times of Israel (January 31, 2013) “The report is so utterly misguided that it steps widely out of line in recommending a boycott that would harm Palestinians and Israelis alike.”
Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, in response to the European Union's (EU) new moves, called it “anti-Semitism.” Foxman explained that the EU initiative represented an “effort at singling out Israel when there is no outcry over so many human rights abuses everywhere.” Addressing the German government in particular, since it has recently passed legislation in support of the EU labeling scheme, he stated on Sunday (June 2, 2013) “If the only country you want to single out is Israel, that’s anti-Semitism.”
Foxman dismissed the notion that the situation in the West Bank was unique and therefore might justify a unique response. He argued that the focus on alleged Israeli human right abuses relating to settlements was an excuse to single out Israel. Foxman pointed out that given the dismal human rights situation in so many places worldwide, “where people are being killed for who they are, and this is the only concern?” Foxman added, “Where are the sanctions against those who kill Christians [in Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, and Turkey, to name a few]? Where is the outcry?”
It is particularly galling that a German government would participate in boycotting products made in the Jewish State. It is reminiscent of the Nazi era, when Hitler’s regime ordered the boycott of Jewish businesses. Moreover, a boycott against Israel, which seeks territorial compromise with the Palestinians, while the Palestinians have instead chosen the destruction of the Jewish State and have refrained from negotiations with Israel to resolve the territorial issue, is nothing less than a renewal of government sanctioned Jew hatred.
Just weeks following the Six Day War of June 1967, Israel’s renowned Foreign minister Abba Eban, in an interview with the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel, coined the now famous phrase “The Auschwitz borders,” when referring to the pre-1967 borders of Israel. Eban stated in the interview that Israel’s return to the pre-1967 indefensible borders will bring danger and lack of security for the Jewish State. Eban went on to say that “I am not exaggerating when I say that for us it holds the imagery of Auschwitz.”
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, more than any other EU leader, must recognize the meaning of discriminatory branding. While a yellow band with “Jude” written on it is unlikely in today’s Europe, any other discriminatory tag, badge, or ban on Jewish products will have the same anti-Semitic effect.
The EU states, including Germany, have excused their discriminatory moves against Israel as stemming from pure political motives, namely, their desire to advance human rights and peace in the region. The intentional goal to hurt Jewish businesses however, removes their alleged quest for equality and justice, and exposes the ugly truth of racial and religious bias.
Not everyone in the EU supports this discriminatory boycott of Israeli products. In 2009, in the wake of a proposed boycott of Israeli products, right and left-wing politicians in Rome came out in support of the city’s Jewish community. Piero Fassino, a leftist opposition leader, described the proposal to boycott Israeli products as a stupid provocation: “To boycott means to negate. It’s a form of negation of Israel and its rights. But the peace in the Middle East cannot be achieved by negation, but by recognizing the rights of Israel and of the Palestinian people,” he said. Piero Marrazzo, governor of the Lazio region of which Rome is the capital, called the idea of boycotting Jewish shops blood-curdling and met leaders of Rome’s Jewish neighborhoods to express his solidarity.
Currently, goods produced in Judea and Samaria are not eligible for the same preferential tariffs enjoyed by Israeli exports to the EU coming from within the Green Line. According to the World Bank (2012), the EU imports $300 million worth of goods from Israeli settlements a year - roughly 15 times more than the Palestinians. Jewish settlements, however, provide better wages to local Arabs than Arab employers do. The Israel-based SodaStream Corporation, which produces a home beverage carbonation system, has 13 production facilities, three of which are located in Israel and the West Bank, and in 2012, employed 1,100 people. Its main manufacturing facility is located in Mishor Adumim (next to Maale Adumim) and employs 900 Arabs, half of whom live in the Palestinian Authority, in places such as Jericho and Ramallah. Therefore, constraining SodaStream exports in the EU will hurt the Palestinians
A 2007 report by the Knesset Research and Information Center indicates that 33,000 Arabs from Judea and Samaria were employed in Jewish settlements or Jewish industrial centers. According to Reuters (May 4, 2010), the number has declined to 25,000 in 2010.
What is astonishing is the EU interference in the growing relationships between Arabs and Jews in the West Bank. One can easily find Palestinian Authority made products in Israeli stores, while Israeli products are readily found in Palestinian shops. This interdependency is contributing to a more peaceful coexistence, and in some areas fruitful cooperation between Arab villages and Jewish communities in the West Bank. Normalcy and good neighbor relations are being undermined by the activities of far-left provocateurs in cooperation with the EU.
The German government’s resolution that considers Judea and Samaria as not being part of Israel and thus supports labeling products from Jewish settlements was initiated by the Green Party, not by Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party. Nevertheless, making it law amounts to what Denis MacShane, former British Labor Party MP and expert on anti-Semitism called, ‘Kauf nicht bei Juden’ (“Do not buy from Jews”) policy.
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