Ramadan Tov: Don’t Eat Israeli Products for Iftar
“Ramadan Tov” read the posters, held by supporters of the Palestinian internal boycott, about forty of whom had gathered for a demonstration in the West Bank town of Salfit. The poster featured a picture of an Israeli soldier, in full combat gear, holding out a tray filled with household goods: Ein Gedi bottled water, Tnuva yogurt, Tapuzina juice. The use of the word “Tov”, Hebrew for “happy”, underscored the meaning of the posters: if you buy food for Ramadan from Israeli companies, the profits would go back into Israeli society, and tax coffers, and eventually benefit the occupying army.
Internal boycott campaigns have been around for some time in Palestine, with varying degrees of success. However, as the external movement to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel grows, so, it seems, does the push to boycott Israeli products from within Palestine. It’s a risk to take as many Palestinian shops stock large amounts of products made in Israel and in illegal Israeli settlements. In addition, there is the fear that if higher prices or taxes were levied against Israeli goods in the West Bank, the Israelis would in turn hike taxes or export duties on any Palestinian goods leaving the territory. Yet despite the risks, a new push for internal boycotts is gaining popularity, and has gained support across a broad swath of Palestinian society, including various political parties, trade unions, and NGOs.
During the month of Ramadan, representatives of various groups are holding rallies to support the internal boycott in the capital of every governate in the West Bank. In Salfit, high ranking members of the Palestinian Peoples Party and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, including former minister of Social Affairs Majda Masri, along with local supporters and members of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee all gathered on Wednesday the 15th for a grand demonstration. The group started off with a photo-op, chanting “A Halal Iftar doesn’t contain occupation products” and “don’t pay for the bullets that kill your children”. As the demonstration marched through the streets of Salfit, they stopped at various businesses. In those known to participate in the internal boycott, a group of demonstrators would enter the store to congratulate the owner for taking an economic stand. In stores known to sell Israeli products, the mood changed.
“I will boycott when the people stop buying” screamed one shop owner, a major retailer of Israeli products, as demonstrators entered his store bearing “Ramadan Tov” posters. “I will boycott when Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] boycotts!”
Most of the other shopkeepers and onlookers had a more lukewarm response. Many were aware of the moral conundrum posed by trading in Israeli products, as well as the potential economic penalties a boycott could bring down. For others, a boycott seemed irrelevant – Israel and Palestine are two economically intertwined entities, refusing to stock a few consumer goods would hardly change that.
However the organizers of the boycott are adamant that it can make a difference. If Palestinians refuse to buy Israeli products, they are removing any tacit consent to the economic domination that Israel holds over them. The bullets may still come, but Palestinians will in no way be complicit in their purchase.