Last week you have expressed a strong protest over the decision by the European Court in Luxembourg, which ruled that products produced at settlements in the occupied territories do not count as “made in Israel” and therefore are not entitled to exemptions from customs duties on their entry into the European market. As you noted in an interview to the Voice of Israel (February 27, 2010), this ruling means a significant rise in the prices of settlement products and a damage to the competitiveness of the factories producing them.
In the name of the Industrialists’ Association, both of you expressed protest at that European ruling, demanded its repeal and called upon the Government of Israel to act against it. With all due respect, I hope you realize that you are tilting at windmills, waging a futile and foredoomed effort.
It is time for industrialists to see the writing on the wall and understand that from the pure business point of view (to say nothing of the general considerations of Israel’s future, and its vital need to reach peace with its neighbors) an investment in the settlements is a bad and damaging investment.
Throughout the world, a consensus emerged already long ago, completely opposing and rejecting the settlements which Israel is creating in the Occupied Territories –settlements whose creation and continued existence constitute a grave violation of international law, in locations which are in no way part of Israel’s sovereign territory.
The Gush Shalom movement has always been adamantly opposed to the settlement project, which we see as blocking the way to peace. And our call upon Israeli citizens to boycott settlement products did not fall on deaf ears. Already for years, the boycott of settlement products is maintained by households of a wide variety of peace-seeking Israelis, who turn to us for information. And also, we have been approached by Europeans – activists in peace and civil society organizations in such countries as Sweden and the Netherlands, but gradually also by official representatives who conveyed to us that they seriously take up the matter, both at the level of the European Union as a whole and in various individual European countries.
I hope you will understand – and pass on the message to your fellow industrialists – that the ruling of the European court is a natural and inevitable result of the international consensus opposed to the settlements. There is no chance of this ruling being reversed or overturned. On the contrary, there is a concrete chance of its being eventually followed up by sharper measures, to the point of completely forbidding the entry of settlement products into the markets of Europe and of other parts of the world.
As you are undoubtedly aware, most industrialists who have chosen to locate their factories in settlements at the Occupied Territories have not done so out of ideological considerations, but from pure business considerations – specifically the considerable direct and indirect subsidies which the Government of Israel makes available to factories which choose to locate in the settlements.
As against this, however, should be considered the fact that many potential customers avoid, as a point of principle, consuming products originating in the settlements (Gush Shalom publishes a list of such products, for the convenience of peace-seekers) and that in the European and international markets such products encounter obstacles which would grow ever higher.
Important factories such as “Multilock” and “Barkan Wineries” have already found out that being located in settlements creates an impassable barrier to their forming international business partnerships, and drew the conclusions by moving out of the Occupied Territories and into sovereign Israeli territory. At present, the Ahava cosmetics firm finds that being located on the occupied Palestinian shore of the Dead Sea is making the marketing of their products into a highly controversial and contentious issue, worldwide.
I would like to recommend to you – as being charged with safeguarding the interests of your fellow industrialists – that you recommend to them to avoid any further investment at settlements in the Occupied Territories, and to start preparations for moving factories out of these territories as soon as possible.
Adam Keller Gush Shalom Spokesperson POB 2542 Holon 58125