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Bringing the boycott back home: Palestinian stores drop Israeli goods

Amid the Gaza war this summer, Palestinian store owners in the West Bank began removing Israeli products from their shelves. The campaign also aims to educate Palestinian consumers to buy local.

By Yael Marom and Jessica Devaney

Stickers mark Israeli goods at a grocery store in Ramallah. (Photo by Jessica Devaney/Just Vision)

Stickers mark Israeli goods at a grocery store in Ramallah. (Photo by Jessica Devaney/Just Vision)

The call for boycotting Israeli products and services has been gaining momentum across the West Bank in recent weeks. Large sections of store shelves have been emptied of products supplied by Israeli companies. At least 70 stores have already joined the campaign since its launch in Jenin, and store owners in cities such as Hebron, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem and other towns and villages throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem have responded to the call.

In the wake of the violence in Gaza this summer, public support for this nonviolent tactic is growing. Volunteers in cities and villages across the West Bank are working with grocery store owners to place stickers on Israeli products, declaring: “Buying this product supports the Israeli military.” Other stickers label products with “16%” noting the Israeli-regulated value added tax, which in many ways favors the Israeli economy.

A sticker urges Palestinians not to buy Israeli-made hummus. (Photo: 16% Kills Facebook page)

A sticker urges Palestinians not to buy Israeli-made hummus. (Photo: 16% Kills Facebook page)

The campaign, initiated by a coalition of organizations and activists, has a dual purpose: one is to exert pressure on the Israeli economy and Israeli business owners, who profit amply from the captive market of Palestinian buying power. The second declared objective is to strengthen the local Palestinian economy, including businesses, agriculture and factories and to create more jobs for Palestinians.

A website launched under the title “Alternative Palestinian Products,” enables shoppers to find Palestinian alternatives to the Israeli-made products they are used to buying.

Nasser, who runs two mid-sized grocery stores in Ramallah, says that customers are starting to avoid Israeli products – and not just those from settlements. Since the assault on Gaza reached such devastating proportions, he says, “many people feel the only thing they can do to support the Palestinians in Gaza is either donate or boycott Israeli products.” He hopes the popular support for the boycott campaign continues to grow, but he is afraid if that does not happen he will lose customers to stores that have not joined the boycott.

Nasser thinks the Israeli distributors are already beginning to feel the “boycott pinch.” The distributor who delivers Israeli dairy products insisted on replacing the milk remaining on his shelves with fresh milk free of charge, hoping to attract customers. Nasser rejected the offer.

A sign near the entrance of a grocery store in Ramallah: “As part of our participation in the boycott campaign of Israeli goods we are selling these products at cost in order to get them off of our shelves.” (Photo by Jessica Devaney/Just Vision)

A sign near the entrance of a grocery store in Ramallah: “As part of our participation in the boycott campaign of Israeli goods we are selling these products at cost in order to get them off of our shelves.” (Photo by Jessica Devaney/Just Vision)

A few weeks ago, Palestinian grocery chain Bravo announced publicly that they would be removing all Israeli products from their shelves. In an August 5th Facebook post, they said they would begin by getting rid of products from the largest Israeli brands.

Bravo had a few prominent displays of remaining Israeli goods at the entrance of one store, highlighted by a bright yellow sign reading: “Special Offer: In our campaign to boycott Israeli products, we are selling these items at cost in order to get them off the shelves.” However, numerous Israeli products remained on the store’s shelves. Like in other shops, volunteers placed blue and white stickers identifying the Israeli products. In several cases throughout Bravo, these stickers were torn off or obscured.

One skeptical shopper reflected: “maybe Bravo’s big public announcement was an opportunity to capitalize on the growing support for BDS and draw in customers.” It will take some time to see if the boycott gains momentum, she added.

Jessica Devaney is a documentary film producer and the director of communications at Just Vision. Yael Marom is Just Vision’s public engagement manager and a co-editor of Local Call, where this article was originally published in Hebrew.

Related:
What’s behind Israel’s biggest economic boom? The occupation
WATCH: Encouraging Europe to label Israeli settlement products
Spotlight: The Paris Protocol and the Palestinian economy

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    COMMENTS

    1. David T.

      At last …

      Reply to Comment
      • Whiplash

        Two can play the boycott game. Israel should boycott Palestinian Arab goods, close its ports to Palestinian use and limit the water and electricity it sells into the Palestinian market.

        Or as they say in Newfoundland and Labrador, what is good for Goose Bay is good for Gander.

        Reply to Comment
        • CigarButNoNice

          “Israel should boycott Palestinian Arab goods,…”

          Huh? What are we going to boycott, exactly? The only “goods” the Arab colonists manufacture are rockets, Beslan tunnels and neo-Sturmerian propaganda. There’s nothing of value to boycott, unlike in the case of Israel.

          Reply to Comment
          • David T.

            It’s very amusing that some like you who is defaming a whole people as such talks about neo-Stuermer propaganda.

            It must be the plank in your eye that prevents you from acknowledging what Palestine exports and that it is – contrary to Israel – neither weapons nor torture. You obviously don’t even know that your beloved occupying state has reduced Gaza exports down to 5% and down to 0% for the West Bank.

            The same plank and your poor knowledge of history probably prevents you from seeing how many times Jews have colonialized this land. But the land was never colonialzed by Arabs who only arabized the local population of which a lot converted later to Islam.

            Reply to Comment
        • David T.

          Whiplash, are you talking about the water that your beloved occupying state is stealing from the Westbank? Or the power plant and solar panel projects, it keeps destroying? Would the occupying state allow Palestinians to buy their products from somewhere else after it developed the water and electricity infrastructure to keep the occupied dependent and uses it now to collectively punish them?

          Reply to Comment
      • Whiplash

        David, did you notice that Jordan has signed a deal to buy 15 billion dollars of Israeli gas? Did you see that Germany delivered a fourth Dolphin Class submarine to Israel with a fifth to follow later this year?

        Reply to Comment
    2. Whiplash

      Two can play the boycott game. Israel should boycott Palestinian Arab goods, close its ports to Palestinian use and limit the water and electricity it sells into the Palestinian market.

      Or as they say in Newfoundland and Labrador, what is good for Goose Bay is good for Gander.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Whiplash

      “Are you in this program?”

      I do not personally know this gentleman Daniel Seaman and I do not subscribe to Haaretz, so you might want to clarify what you are asking.

      Reply to Comment
      • Danny

        Prime Minister’s Office recruiting students to wage online hasbara battles

        Reply to Comment
        • Whiplash

          It sounds like a great idea. Does that hasbara position require one to be a student, because that ship sailed for me almost 4 decades ago. Since you know so much about the program could you tell me what the pay scale is and if I will get discounted air fare rates (or an upgrade to first class) on El Air flights to and from Israel? If they threw in a free tour of King David’s City and Shiloh, I might consider returning to University. I think Efraim Karsh is teaching “Palestine Betrayed”.

          Reply to Comment
          • Danny

            Send your resume c/o Daniel Seaman. He’ll take care of you.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            We do Hasbarah.

            You do Takiya, Danny boy.

            Reply to Comment
          • David T.

            Yeah, Gustav.

            Like antisemites spread their lies about Jewish religious concepts (for example kol nidre) you spread yours about “Takiya” (your spelling is even more ignorant)

            Taqqiyah allows a Muslim to hide his faith, if he’s persecuted for it.

            Do you really think that Jews never hid their faith for the same reason?

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            I am sorry that my use of the word Taqiyeh upsets you so much David but I am just returning the compliment about your lot’s use and abuse of the word “Hasbarah”. Get used to it.

            Reply to Comment
    4. Hansel

      They tried this before. It won’t work. The Palestinian people won’t tolerate inferior products. And the locally made ones are not up to snuff. These grocers will find themselves boycotted.

      Reply to Comment
      • Haifawi

        this is true. while many people want to boycott israeli products, there are a distinct lack of alternatives due to the occupation (in jordan, also known for inferior local goods, there are ample quality products available from the gulf).
        of course israel will not allow these products to be imported into the west bank, so that the chosen producers continue to have a captive market.

        Reply to Comment
    5. bor

      This is a great development for the anti-Israel movement. Soon, Israeli manufacturers will suffer and they will have to lay of Jewish and Palestinian workers. The Palestinian economy will suffer but so will the Israeli economy. Then, as its hurts, other employers will have to let go of Palestinian and Jewish employees and at some point the Palestinian economy will hit a low that it is currently avoiding thanks to the 100,000 Palestinians employed by Israeli companies. Then, the Palestinians will complain about their lousy standard of living and blame it on “occupation.”

      A great plan.

      It places Palestinian regular people on the front lines again and makes them pay a price so that some political activists can gain traction and power.

      Never miss an opportunity…

      Reply to Comment
      • David T.

        Yeah, it’s better to work under an occupation regime’s economy than to be able to build up your own economy in your own land, right?

        Where did you learn this lesson? From German’s history or Southafrica’s?

        Reply to Comment
    6. Pedro X

      The same old BDS crap from the Palestinians which will boomerang on themselves. Then they will sing another sob story of self inflicted harm.

      BDS actions just prove how illogical their actions are. Israel is their biggest trading partner by far. Israel could stop all imports and exports to and from the West Bank and utterly crush the Palestinian economy.

      Reply to Comment
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