While food-chains across the globe are appeasing violent BDS protesters who attack its Israeli merchandise, European banks are also severing their cooperation with Israeli counterparts.
By Navit Zomer, Itamar Eichner and Udi Etzion
In April 2012, the Co-operative, Britain’s fifth-largest food retailer, declared it would no longer be importing agricultural produce from the territories or any Israeli supplier linked to produce from there. Five years earlier, retail giant Marks & Spencer announced that it was boycotting products from the West Bank, while the Tesco supermarket chain stopped marketing dates from the Jordan Valley.
And they are not alone: Over the past few years, numerous other companies from various countries around the world have announced some kind of a boycott of Israeli goods or companies.
“A consumer boycott of Israeli goods primarily affects agricultural and fresh produce, as it is marked as made in Israel,” says Israel Export Institute chairman Ramzi Gabbay. “Most of the Israeli industrial exports are unmarked so even if there is a boycott, it’s an unofficial one imposed by an individual business that prefers not to work with Israel.”
“Many international companies purchase parts of products, such as electronic components, with the final customer for the device having no idea of their origin anyway. In most instances, businesses do the profitability math before considering politics,” Gabbay adds.
“We are being hit hard in Europe, where there is a large Muslim population,” a director at one of Israel’s agricultural exports companies said this week.
“Unlike in the case of many industrial products, we are required to stipulate the country of origin on the fruit so that the customer can tell where the produce comes from. During Operation Protective Edge, Muslim customers went into the retail chains, particularly in Scandinavia and France, and threw our produce on the floor and sparked unrest.
“In other places, they staged demonstrations outside supermarkets. Even if the chain holds our goods and their quality in high regard, the buyer apologizes and says that the chain doesn’t want any trouble and doesn’t want to upset its public, and therefore it won’t buy from us.”
Not only agricultural produce
The boycott of Israel is not being felt only in the field of agriculture. In the banking sector, for example, Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, has announced a boycott of Bank Hapoalim due to the latter’s activities in the territories and its involvement in “violations of international law.”
Norwegian bank, Nordea, has demanded clarifications from Bank Leumi and Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank on the scope of their activities in the settlements. Dutch pension fund PGGM has also announced that it will stop investing in Israel’s major banks because they are “funding construction in the territories.”
Israeli real-estate companies and security firms are also taking a blow: In 2009, the Norwegian government’s pension fund, AP, sold its shares in Elbit Systems because of the Israeli company’s involvement in the construction of the separation barrier. AP also announced that it would not invest in the Housing and Construction Holding Company. And Norway’s oil fund, considered the largest in the world with assets of $810 billion, has decided not to invest in Africa Israel and Danya Cebus due to their involvement in construction in the settlements.
And in other areas: The world’s largest security company, G4S of Britain, has ended all its contracts with the Israeli government that are linked to security for the settlements; Germany’s national rail company, Deutsche Bahn, has pulled out of the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem train line project claiming that the project includes tunnels that pass through the territories; Dutch water company Vitens has severed ties with Israel’s Mekorot; and the list goes on.
Threats and demonstrations
And sometimes the boycott takes on violent dimensions too: Shopkeepers in Australia have received death threats for continuing to sell goods from Israel; pro-Palestinian students in Australia have staged loud demonstrations at shopping malls at which owners of stalls selling Ahava products from the Dead Sea were assaulted; Israeli commercial ships have been detained at various North American ports; and Irish BDS activists have stuck labels calling for a boycott on packages of dates from the Jordan Valley.
There are growing calls among the EU states for punitive measures against Israel if construction in the territories continues, with one of the moves on the agenda being the labeling products from the territories. South Africa has already decided officially to mark products made in the settlements. Ahava, for example, has already been forced to cease its activities in South Africa due to the boycott campaign.
The main problem for Israel remains Europe: In recent years, Britain, Spain and Italy have warned business executives not to invest beyond the Green Line as they would be “running the risk of violating international law.”
View original Ynet publication at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4664447,00.html