[News] The PA's disingenuous boycott campaign
news at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 25 13:31:59 EDT 2010
The PA's disingenuous boycott campaign
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 25 May 2010
In recent weeks, the US- and Israeli-backed Ramallah-based
Palestinian Authority (PA) has made a show of calling on Palestinians
to boycott goods manufactured in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Despite the rhetoric of defiance and resistance, and exaggerated
screams of anguish from Israeli settler groups, the PA effort
actually appears designed to co-opt, undermine and abort the much
broader Palestinian civil society campaign of boycott, divestment and
sanctions (BDS), and to reassure Israel of the continued docility and
collaboration of its puppet regime in Ramallah.
As part of his daily routine of publicity stunts, unelected
Ramallah-based "Prime Minister" Salam Fayyad has been seen tossing
bundles of settler-produced goods onto bonfires. As for PA
"President" Mahmoud Abbas, he recently signed the "Karama" (dignity)
Pledge -- promising not to allow settlement goods into his house and
encouraging others to do the same. PA volunteers have been going
door-to-door in the occupied West Bank to distribute lists of
settler-made consumer goods that should be avoided.
So far, all well and good. Palestinians and those in solidarity with
them should absolutely boycott Israeli products. Since 2005, hundreds
of Palestinian organizations endorsed an appeal which "call[s] upon
international civil society organizations and people of conscience
all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment
initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa
in the apartheid era"
(<http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=66>"Palestinian Call for
Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)," 9 July 2005).
The BDS movement has seen activists all over the world calling --
with increasing success -- on companies to cease doing business in
Israel, to stop selling Israeli products, for international
performers not to perform in Israel, for academics to refuse
cooperation with Israeli institutions and for cultural institutions
to boycott Israeli government-sponsored events aimed at prettifying
Israel's apartheid practices.
Recently, dozens of Palestinian youth organizations, independent as
well as aligned with virtually every political faction, inside and
outside historic Palestine, issued a joint call under the title
"Palestinian youth united against normalization with Israel." The
youth "declare our rejection of normalization with Israel on all
levels" -- economic, political, cultural and institutional -- and
their adherence to the principles of the Palestinian independent
Boycott National Committee which steers the BDS movement
youth united against normalization with Israel," 28 April 2010).
BDS represents the broad consensus of Palestinian society, but the PA
settlement boycott campaign actually violates and calls on people to
defy the BDS call. During a photo opportunity where he affixed a
sticker to the door of his house attesting that it was free of
settlement goods, Abbas emphasized, "We are not boycotting Israel,
because we have agreements and imports from it."
Similarly the official PA website for the ironically-named "Karama
Pledge" states: "Regarding trade with Israel, the Palestinian
Ministry of Economy confirms continuing its cooperation as it was
agreed at the  Paris summit" (<http://karama.ps>http://karama.ps).
All of this is no doubt under the rubric of the PA's famous
"adherence to signed agreements" dictated by the Quartet (the US, EU,
Russia and the UN). But the PA website even acknowledges that Israel
itself does not abide by agreements and that "Israel forbids any of
our products from reaching its markets. In addition, Israel places
many obstacles that face Palestinian products waiting to be exported
to foreign countries ... Israel is even denying Palestinian rights
which were agreed in the Paris agreement."
The PA's insistence on abiding by agreements Israel constantly
violates is further evidence -- if it were needed -- of the PA's
terminal subservience. Given this reality, the main purpose of its
campaign is actually to undermine both the methods and goals of the
growing grassroots BDS movement and to preach to Palestinians that
they must and should do business with Israel and allow Israeli goods
in their markets and cooperate and normalize with Israel unconditionally.
The 2005 Palestinian BDS call states that "nonviolent punitive
measures should be maintained" until Israel meets all its obligations
to Palestinian rights and international law, specifically: ending its
occupation and colonization of all Arab land and dismantling the
apartheid wall; recognizing the rights of Palestinian citizens of
Israel to full equality; and respecting, protecting and promoting the
rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. The PA
campaign, by contrast, makes no mention of these goals whatsoever,
focusing narrowly on settlements -- but even this is an empty commitment.
As part of the PA's hasbara campaign, Abbas issued a decree
threatening large fines and terms of imprisonment up to six years for
those who deal in or import settlement goods into the West Bank.
Notably this decree does not impose any penalties on Palestinian
businessmen who sell goods and provide services to the settlers. In
recent years credible allegations have repeatedly surfaced that a
number of senior PA and Fatah officials, including most notoriously
former PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, and their family members have
grown rich from selling cement to Israel for construction of
settlements and the apartheid wall (or acting as brokers to import
cement from Egypt on behalf of Israeli companies). Despite repeated
promises that the PA attorney-general would investigate and prosecute
such violations nothing has ever happened. Unsurprisingly, Abbas and
Fayyad -- despite their new found anti-settlement zeal -- still seem
uninterested in investigating PA complicity.
While undermining BDS is probably the main aim of the bogus PA
campaign it is likely not the only one. The Abbas/Fayyad regime lacks
any legal, political or democratic legitimacy. It invested all its
efforts into the endless and pointless US-sponsored "peace process"
that has made Palestinians worse off by every possible measure. In
recent years, independent grassroots campaigns have taken off,
including BDS and the popular nonviolent struggles against the West
Bank wall and settlements. But just as Yasser Arafat's Palestine
Liberation Organization was surprised and alarmed by the outbreak of
the first Palestinian intifada in 1987 and moved quickly to try to
control and co-opt it, the PA leadership is attempting to do exactly
the same now. The PA is not just attempting undermine the independent
BDS and grassroots campaigns, but to co-opt them precisely because of
their growing power, popularity and legitimacy as liberation
strategies, in the hope that some of that legitimacy will rub off on
the Ramallah regime.
The Electronic Intifada
reported on the PA's middle-of-the-night arrest of Mousa Abu Maria,
co-coordinator of the grassroots Palestine Solidarity Project in the
occupied West Bank village of Beit Ommar.
Abu Maria, as reported in The Economist, sees the PA's sudden
interest in popular nonviolent resistance as "a veiled bid by Mr.
Fayyad to gain control of an independent grassroots movement and to
turn the drive for a Palestinian state into a cause without rebels"
Palestinians peacefully build a state?," 20 May 2010). More
generally, US-trained PA paramilitaries continue their harsh
crackdown on any sort of independent activism and organizing in the
occupied West Bank.
Consider too the irony that the PA has launched its campaign against
the settlements at precisely the moment it is engaged in US-brokered
"proximity talks" with Israel. The PA had previously vowed not to
return to any sort of negotiations until Israel halted all settlement
construction throughout the West Bank including occupied Jerusalem.
Israel defied requests from US President Barack Obama to stop
construction, but instead of standing up to Israel, the Americans
pressured the PA to return to negotiations without any conditions or
Thus the settlement boycott acts as a cover for the abject weakness
of the PA to stick to even its most modest promises, let alone
extract real concessions from Israel or its American sponsors during
negotiations. Equally clear, it is a diversion. According to numerous
reports, Israelis and Palestinians agreed in principle during the
proximity talks on a "land swap." This is not new; it has long been a
peace process industry article of faith that in a two-state solution
Israel would remove only token settlements while the vast majority,
especially those in and around occupied Jerusalem which house at
least 80 percent of the settlers, would be annexed to Israel. In
exchange for receiving East Jerusalem and large parts of the West
Bank, Israel would give the Palestinians some sand dunes near Gaza
(the so-called Halutza Sands) and some remote barren hills south of Hebron.
So while the Ramallah leaders -- who have no mandate or authority
from the Palestinian people whether under the PA or the Palestine
Liberation Organization to negotiate on their behalf -- make a show
of boycotting settlement goods, their actual agenda is to promote
economic normalization, undermine BDS and legitimize the settlements
Where the PA does remain firmly committed to boycott is in its
support for Israel's total blockade and siege of the Palestinian
people in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip. Despite occasional lip
service to ending the blockade, Ramallah PA leaders always stress
that it should end only according to the terms dictated by the
Quartet: that the US- and Israeli-backed PA militias should return to
Gaza to police and repress the Palestinians there on behalf of Israel
just as they are doing in the West Bank.
The PA in Ramallah has, notably, offered no support to the courageous
international flotilla currently en route to Gaza in another attempt
to break the blockade amid threats of violence from Israel. Why has
the PA not called on its "friends" and benefactors in the
"international community" to send their navies to protect this
peaceful, nonviolent flotilla and ensure it gets through to Gaza? In
practice, PA policy amounts to full support for the siege.
Some people have been impressed by the PA's anti-settlement campaign
considering it a "step in the right direction." But no one should be
fooled. Palestinians and their allies should remain clearly focused
on the simple truth that those who continue to coordinate with the
Israeli occupation forces to hunt down Palestinians by night cannot
don the mantle of popular resistance by day.
Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of
<http://electronicintifada.net/bytopic/store/548.shtml>One Country: A
Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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