British activists kick off week-long boycott against Israeli settlement products

Saed Bannoura [IMEMC News] 9 November 2009 – As part of the international Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) movement, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK has implemented a week-long boycott against several large supermarket chains in the UK that carry Israeli products.

The week-long boycott is targeting the Waitrose and Morrisons supermarket chains, in an attempt to pressure the stores to discontinue the sale of fruits and vegetables grown and processed on Israeli settlements in the West Bank — settlements that have been deemed illegal under international law, as they are constructed on land illegally confiscated from the indigenous Palestinian population by military force.

The activists say that they have tried other tactics, such as petitioning the stores to stop selling what they call ‘apartheid products’, but the stores’ managers have been unresponsive. One of the stores, Waitrose, released a statement saying that the produce is grown on farms where “a Palestinian and Israeli workforce have worked side by side for years.”

But the Palestine Solidarity Committee says that such a statement is entirely disingenuous, given that the farms in question are on Israeli settlements, built on illegally confiscated Palestinian land, and that there is no equality between the Palestinian workers, who are forced to work in the settlements because their own economy has been destroyed by the Israeli occupation.

The British activists cited documentation of the conditions on Israeli settlement agricultural plantations, documented in reports of the Israeli human rights group Kav LaOved.

According to the evidence compiled by Kav LaOved, the settlements are built on stolen land and are irrigated by water stolen from the Palestinians, Palestinian children as young as 12 work on settlement farms, Palestinian workers in Israeli Settlements earn less than 50% of the minimum wage, and sometimes as little as five US cents an hour, and Palestinian settlement workers receive no holiday pay, pensions or sick pay.

In addition, Palestinian workers require permits to work, which can be removed if they complain about their conditions or ask for a pay rise. Israeli workers do not require work permits. Palestinian workers must travel through Israeli barriers and checkpoints every day in order to get to their place of employment, then get home again. Queues of workers start forming at checkpoints as early as 2am, with little or no shelter provided for those in line. Israeli workers are free to move around the Palestinian West Bank without restrictions, and special roads, which Palestinians are forbidden to use, have been built for them.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s week of actions include demonstrations outside stores, and mass, co-ordinated phone calls to the management of both stores on Wednesday.

The group is part of an international movement boycotting what they call Israeli apartheid practices of discrimination and segregation against the indigenous Palestinian population. The movement compares Israel’s practices to the ‘apartheid’ system implemented by white South Africans from 1948 – 1994, in which black and mixed race South Africans were forced to live in certain areas, carry ID cards and discriminated against by a number of apartheid laws.

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