Political economy of Israel’s occupation Pt.7 – Hever on the reasons for boycotting Israel
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. We’re in Jerusalem. We’re joined again by Shir Hever. He’s an economist at the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem and is the author of the book Political Economy of Israel’s Occupation, which is not out yet, but it will be soon, and when it does, you’ll be able to get it on our website. Thanks for joining us.
SHIR HEVER, ECONOMIST, ALTERNATIVE INFORMATION CENTER: Thank you.
JAY: So one of the things that’s happening internationally is the boycott movement in North America, in many other parts of the world—it probably has a little more steam going in Europe. Talk a bit about how much effect is this having on the Israeli economy.
HEVER: The boycott movement is a call that started with the Palestinians struggling for freedom and against the occupation, and for equality and justice under Israeli control. The idea is that rather than go through a process of military struggle and violent struggle, by putting economic pressure on Israel the issue of equality can be raised, the issue of democracy can be raised, and people can be educated about it through their activity in the boycott movement. Basically, the argument is that if you buy from Israel, if you support Israel economically by trading with Israel through various ways, you’re actually enabling Israel more resources to use against the Palestinians and to strengthen its violations of international law. The boycott movement is growing very fast. It’s growing not only in Europe and in North America, but also in Latin America and in many other countries, and Australia. And basically it’s a movement that comes from people who support it not because they love Palestinians, it’s not because they feel a special affinity with the Palestinian people in particular, although that also exists, of course, but mostly because these people feel that there is a connection between what happens in Palestine, what happens in the Middle East, and their own lives, because—we spoke before about the Republican Party in the United States or the extreme right in Europe. Israel is a kind of factory for repression and mechanisms of repression that are being sold to other countries in the world. And mechanisms that are used against Palestinians are often replicated and used against citizens of other countries by their governments because they’ve already been tested on Palestinians as kind of guinea pigs, if you want. And so the boycott movement is also a way for people to voice their dissatisfaction with their governments. Why are their governments enabling Israel, allowing Israel to continue to violate international law, to develop and create weapons of mass destruction illegally, to deny Palestinians citizenship and democracy, and to incarcerate 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip in conditions of utter poverty, where their only means of sustenance is aid from the international community? Why should the international community allow this? Other countries that [inaudible]
JAY: So far, the boycott movement, what effect is it having on the Israeli economy?
HEVER: The effect is hidden by the Israeli various bureaus of statistics and the Manufacturers Association, for example. There was one survey that showed 21 percent of Israeli exporters reported on average 10 percent loss of income because of the boycott, which was related specifically to the attack on Gaza in 2008-2009. But this report was censored. This report was removed from—was never published, it was only leaked to the media once, and it’s impossible to get it, because the Manufacturers Association know that if that information reaches people who support the boycott movement, that will empower them and give them more confidence to continue their efforts.
JAY: There was a tribunal recently, the Bertrand Russell tribunal we did a report on. And the EU should be, if they follow their own guidelines—for example, not allowing products made in the West Bank and then stamped “Made in Israel”—they shouldn’t be allowed into the EU, if I have it correctly. Do I?
HEVER: Yes, of course. The European Commission violates its own laws,—
JAY: [inaudible] own laws, yeah.
HEVER: —which would be unthinkable where it was any other country.
JAY: Is the boycott movement asking for people to boycott products? Or anything to do with Israel? ‘Cause I know there’s been a big debate whether, for example, to boycott Israeli academic exchanges and things like this.
HEVER: We at the Alternative Information Center published a report about Israeli academic institutions, and our argument is basically that the big universities in Israel—actually, all of universities in Israel, with the exclusion of the Open University, have been actively participating in acts of repression against Palestinians, discriminating against Palestinian students or not accepting Palestinian students, and not allowing freedom of protest, not allowing professors to research certain topics that are considered inappropriate or not loyal enough, providing benefits to the Israeli army or to officers, and developing weapons. So we have a list in this publication, which you can download from our website, of every Israeli academic institutions and what kind of crimes they’re involved in, and you can make your own decision whether you want to boycott these institutions are not. And the same goes for a lot of other kinds of businesses in Israel—not necessarily businesses that have their factories in the occupied Palestinian territory (of course, those are clear examples of colonialism), but also factories that don’t offer equal employment opportunities for Palestinian citizens, factories that embrace the army and gives discounts to soldiers, factories that contribute to the army. And so you see that the vast majority of the Israeli economy is very strongly intertwined with the project of Judaification and Zionism. So there is a very strong argument for boycotting every Israeli product, or at the very least for boycotting every Israeli product until Israel is able to differentiate and to give accurate and fair information about its exports—which exports come from the occupied Palestinian territories, which aren’t; which companies offer equal opportunities, which aren’t. And it’s not just about economic boycott, it’s also cultural boycott, because we don’t want to give the impression that Israel is a normal country, that you can just have it as part of a tour of performances of various famous artists. So we’re asking famous artists not to come and perform in Israel. That would be legitimizing the Israeli apartheid.
JAY: Now, one of the critiques of the boycott movement is that all of this Israeli policy is enabled by the United States, but nobody’s talking about boycotting the United States.
HEVER: There is the moral issue, and there is also a practical issue, of course. I think the United States is committing many crimes as well, and in many cases more serious crimes (that’s definitely true) and acting as an imperial power. We cannot effectively boycott the United States economy, because it is the world economy. But what we can do is make a statement through boycotting the Israeli economy and through ending the injustice in the Middle East, or at least in Palestine, as the first stage in a global struggle for a better world for everyone. So that’s why I am not surprised that there are people in Venezuela or in Chile that are also calling to boycott Israel, that are also struggling in solidarity with Palestinian struggle. Even if they don’t know much about the Palestinian people, necessarily, or they don’t have a lot of a lot of ties with them, they know that this is one of the places where victory is achievable. And that would be a very important victory also against the neoliberal policies, the global neoliberal policies, and United States imperialism.
JAY: Thanks for joining us.
HEVER: Thank you very much.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.