Campaign To Boycott Israeli Products In Switzerland

Some 30 Palestinian and Swiss organizations are championing a campaign to boycott Israeli products, protesting incessant Israeli aggressions on the armless Palestinian people.

In a statement released in the Swiss city of Bern on Tuesday, June 17, a copy of which was obtained by, the spearheading organizations called for boycotting all products carrying the paracode no. 729, the international paracode for Israel-made commodities.

“Boycotting the Israeli products serves as a bargaining chip on political leaders,” the statement read.

“It is not an attempt to pressurize the Jewish community in Switzerland or the Israeli people, but rather the Israeli government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,” it explained.

The statement further called on all Swiss vacationers who got used to spend their summer holidays in Tel Aviv, Elat and Haifa to choose other tourist destinations.

It also denounced the Israeli crimes and violations against the Palestinian people over the past few moths, particularly after Aqaba summit between Sharon, Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President George Bush.

Swiss leftist organizations and movements are vocal supporters of the Palestinian cause and organized a myriad of pro-Palestinians marches, including those held during the 2002 G-8 summit.

They usually take “Justice and Peace in Palestine” as their mantra during anti-globalization rallies.

In Paris, up to 30 French organizations – affiliated to an organization coordinating calls for a just peace in Middle East – are sponsoring boycott of Israeli food products as long as the Israeli occupation persists.

During a conference in June 2002 attended by a number of intelligentsia, such as Israeli actor Eyal Sivan, the organization chairperson charged Israel of practicing real racial segregation against the Palestinians.

In an article published in Sweden’s largest daily on Saturday, January 18, a group of 73 Swedish luminaries and public figures called for a boycott of Israeli goods produced in occupied Palestinian territories.

On September 22, the Israeli Ha’aretz newspaper reported that the Plaid Cymru party in Wales, Britain, is carrying out a wide-ranged campaign among the British population to boycott Israeli products and to raise awareness regarding the plight of the Palestinian people.

Campaign To Boycott Israeli Products In Switzerland

Norway Trade Body Calls For Boycotting Israeli Products

Some supermarkets in Norway are identifying goods from Israel by sticking yellow labels on them, to give consumers the option of purchasing or not purchasing them, a Palestinian website reported.

In an editorial published on its website, the Palestine Chronicle said that there should be no action against products that are made by the U.S. , or any other country, by firms owned by loyal citizens who happen to be Jewish, Islamic, or Christian.

However, the paper added, if there are products from Israeli firms in the world marketplace, and people wish to point out that they are indeed Israeli products, and that to indicate their objection to buying such products made in Israel because of Israeli aggression and terrorist activities, then they have that right.

The Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions, has severely criticized Israeli aggression against Palestinians and expressed their fury at Israel’s damaging of the 1993 Oslo agreement, reported Norwegian daily newspaper, Aften Posten on May 15.

The Federation has been fending off harsh and carefully organized criticism from Israeli authorities and Jewish groups since it itself criticized Israeli’s military action in the West Bank , the paper said.

On a speech delivered on Labor Day, the head of the organization Gerd-Liv Valla called for a boycott of Israeli products until the violence ceased.

At the same time, Valla criticized the Norwegian Government for being too passive to the conflict in the Middle East , reported the Norway Post.

“In my opinion they are too hesitant. I expect them to be quite clear and distinct in their view of Kofi Annan’s initiative for an international peace force,” Valla said.

In her speech, Valla pointed to the fact that this year’s May Day celebrations were marked by sorrow and anger over the conflict in the Middle East . The situation has gone from bad to worse over the last few weeks.

The promises by Israeli Prime Minister Sharon of security for the population has led to the opposite. “We will urge a boycott of Israeli products as long as the conflict continues,” Gerd-Liv Valla said.

The reaction by Israeli and Jewish organizations has been swift. A delegation from the federation was nearly prevented from entering Israel in May and the Israeli embassy in Oslo has been crying foul. There were also e-mail campaigns even from the Anti-Defamation League of the U.S, the paper reported.

However, the Federation are standing by their position. Jon Ivar Naalsund, an official in the organization, said that he believes the Palestinians should have the same Israeli right to exist on a long-term basis within secure and accepted boundaries, which was the basis for the Oslo agreement. “We are disappointed and upset that Israel has damaged this work so severely,” he said.

He said that the organization is far from alone in its criticism of current Israeli policy, noting that other European labor organizations also have opposed recent actions by Israel ‘s current conservative government.

In a speech which he gave on May 17, Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik expressed his unease clearly stated that he was against a boycott of Israeli products, reported the Norway Post.

“Some have called for a boycott, but I do not share such a view. And it is not the Government’s policy,” Bondevik said adding that a boycott and sanctions against Israel would not contribute towards securing security and peace in the region.

“We would only create aggression among the Israelis through such an action. I disagree with TUC leader Gerd-Liv Valla on this point,” the Norwegian Prime Minister said.

The paper reported May 5 that trade union movements in Oslo will begin a blockade of Israeli products, preventing the goods from leaving the warehouses.

The Transport Workers’ Union will barricade the warehouses belonging to the importers of fruit and vegetables, stopping the delivery of Israeli produce, said the paper.

The union said the blockade will last until the Israeli military actions against Palestinians are stopped. “If the grocery chains want any wares, they first have to remove the Israeli products,” says union spokesman Thorbjoern Kristoffersen.

However, the response for the boycott campaign has not been received well in Norway by consumers, reported the Norway Post on May 3.

Most of the major grocery chains say they have not registered any decline in the sale of Israeli goods.

Only one of the four largest chains, NorgesGruppen, reports a slight decline in the sale of Israeli products compared with last year, but they don’t have any concrete figures, the paper said.

Bama, the fruit wholesalers, registered a 30 per cent drop in the sales of Israeli potatoes at the beginning of April, but the sales are now almost back to normal.

Swedish consumers on the other hand, have reacted more strongly, according to the Swedish trade journal Fri Kopenskap. The sale of Jaffa oranges in particular has suffered, and Ica Gourmet in Sweden has changed to different suppliers of avocado and oranges, reported the paper.

There is also organized work carried out by Palestinians residing in Norway . A group of them have started up an organization dedicated for boycotting Israel . According to their website, “Boycott Israel”, meet a couple of times a month, and have divided themselves into three units: the consumer group, the shop group and the coordination-press group.

The consumer group deals with the printing of leaflets, posters and stickers, as well as circulating the material. It is in charge of holding stands every Saturday, and is responsible for most of the “normal” boycotting work directed towards the consumer.

The shop group works at influencing shop owners in the Oslo area not to sell Israeli products in their stores. This group deals with individual shops as well as the wholesalers.

The coordination-press group is responsible for preparing and leading the ‘grand’ meetings, process requests, keep in contact with affiliated organizations, work towards the press and run the finances according to directives given by the grand meetings.

On May 8, the Aften Posten reported that Israel claims that foreign donations, including the 20 million dollars Norway has given to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the past year, has funded what it calls “terrorist” attacks.

Foreign funding covers about 70 percent of the PA’s budget, which has suffered after Israel withheld USD 507 million in taxes and duties which should have gone to the Palestinian Authority this year, reported the paper

To prevent the collapse of the PA’s infrastructure and maintain public salaries Norway , the European Union and several Arab nations contributed money to cover the PA’s monthly operating costs of about USD 93 million.

Arab nations pitch in with about USD 55 million per month, the EU gives USD 9 million monthly and Norway has donated two USD 10 million payments, once last year and once in 2002.

The European Union does not export items that are manufactured in the occupied territories or in Jewish settlements.

Norway Trade Body Calls For Boycotting Israeli Products

Selfridges bans sale of goods from occupied territories

Selfridges yesterday became the first big British department store to withdraw from sale goods which are produced in the occupied territories of the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

Bowing to pressure from Palestinian groups, the central London store announced that it would no longer sell a range of beauty and food products which are incorrectly marked as Israeli goods.

The action by Selfridges came after Palestinian groups picketed the Oxford Street store last Saturday. Protesters handed out leaflets pointing out that placing a “Made in Israel” label on products from the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the Gaza Strip breaches EU excise and customs regulations. The international community has never recognised Israel’s annexation of the territories in 1967 and 1973.

A Selfridges spokeswoman said last night that it had withdrawn the goods to encourage the Palestinian groups to end their protest, adding that the store was not making a political point. Insisting that it was lawful to sell the products, the store said: “Selfridges has taken the decision to withdraw the four products during the Christmas season in order to minimise disruption to our customers caused by leafleting and picketing outside our store. This decision will be reviewed in the new year.”

The products which have been withdrawn are Achva Halva sesame seed sweets and Beigal and Beigal pretzels, made in the Barkan Industrial Zone on the West Bank; Ahava toiletries, made in Mitspe Shalem on the West Bank; and Yarden Wines from Katzrin on the Golan Heights. The West Bank was annexed by Israel in 1967, while the Golan Heights were annexed in 1967 and 1973.

The move will focus attention on the Palestinian campaign to boycott goods from the occupied territories which are marked as Israeli. The European commission is expected to register its anger with Israel over the contentious goods by ending low tariffs for such products.

Selfridges bans sale of goods from occupied territories

Europe irresolute over Israeli trade fraud

There is no conduct quite so unbecoming as the betrayal of a friend. Israel professes to be a friend of Europe and yet, in its dealings with Europe, Israel has cheated and lied and abused the trust that was placed in its officials. It has done this cynically and systematically – and has been found out. The question now is what Europe is going to do about it.

In 1995 Israel and Europe signed an agreement “to establish lasting relations, based on reciprocity and partnership”. On the first page, both sides declared a commitment to “the common values that they share” and “the observance of human rights and democracy”.

Among other things, Europe promised Israel cooperation in a wide range of fields, including culture and science – an important morale-booster for any country which has been ostracised by its neighbours.

But the biggest prize for Israel was trade: it would be allowed to export its own goods to Europe either duty-free or at reduced rates. Today, that trade accounts for one third of Israel’s worldwide exports.

This was not merely a goodwill gesture by Europe. The agreement (and another one signed later with the Palestinians) was meant to reward Israel for its participation in the Oslo peace process, and to encourage further progress in the negotiations. Indeed, several European countries waited for signs of further progress before ratifying the agreement.

The agreement was based (misguidedly, as it turned out) on mutual trust. This meant that Israeli customs officials were expected to certify – truthfully – that the goods exported to Europe had in fact been produced in Israel.

But no sooner had the ink dried on Shimon Peres’s signature than Israel began to cheat. To imagine that this was due to a few bent officials in the customs department would be a mistake: cheating was built into the system and it was carried out with the blessing of the Israeli government.

The cheating took three forms, which I outlined in an article last week (Europe colludes in Israeli trade scams). One was to re-label produce from other countries as Israeli.

Another was to pretend that products from illegal Israeli settlements had originated within Israel’s internationally-recognised boundaries. The third was to frustrate the Palestinians’ efforts to trade directly with Europe and instead force them to send their produce via Israel under an Israeli label. Because of this, money which by rights should have gone to Palestinians went to Israelis and, in the case of imports, the Palestinian Authority was deprived of much-needed tax revenue.

In 1997, as a result of complaints, the European commission sent a delegation to Israel to find out why Brazilian orange juice arriving in Europe had been certified as Israeli in order to qualify for preferential rates.

The problem, the delegation concluded, went way beyond orange juice: Israeli customs officials simply could not be trusted. The problem was so serious, their report said, that “the validity of ALL preferential certificates issued by Israel, for ALL products”, was in doubt.

The commission then issued a warning to European companies which trade with Israel, pointing out that they could be liable to backdated import duties if the certificates proved to be invalid.

In the meantime, the commission announced it would take steps to verify the “ample evidence” of Israeli violations of the agreement, and added that “should these violations … be confirmed they should be brought to an end.” Instead, they continued. Last year, after months of hesitation, the process of returning suspect certificates to Israel for verification finally got under way.

Britain has so far returned certificates for Ahava cosmetics, dates, carpets from Barkan (a West Bank settlement), wines, brandy and liqueurs, pencils, plastic household items, key blanks and locks, electrical items, and bath and skincare products. The commission has also alerted British customs to watch out for biscuits and Soda Stream drinks makers. Other countries have taken similar action, but the products have continued to enter Europe at preferential rates.

The procedure laid down in the agreement for challenging the validity of certificates is to seek verification, though nobody is in any real doubt that the products have come from illegal settlements and that their documentation has been falsified. They are listed as settlement products on rival Israeli websites which urge people either to boycott them or to make a point of buying them.

Under the rules, once Europe asks for verification, Israel is allowed 10 months to provide evidence of the real origin of a product. The deadline on some products has already expired; on others it will expire between now and the end of September. So far as is known, Israel has not replied.

In the absence of confirmatory evidence from Israel within the 10-month deadline, customs authorities throughout Europe can refuse preferential treatment for the product concerned, and claim backdated duties at the full rate.

Israel, in turn, is obliged under the agreement to take punitive action against anyone who has been involved in falsifying documents. In the coming weeks, European leaders will decide whether to continue with this leisurely, piecemeal approach or whether to take tougher action.

Ending preferential treatment for settlement products would certainly be progress, but it barely scratches the surface. It does not address the European commission’s most serious complaint: that all certificates issued by Israel, for all products, are suspect.

To re-establish trust, Israel will have carry out a thorough overhaul of the way it does business with Europe. On past form, that is unlikely to happen unless Europe threatens to terminate the agreement.

Given that Israel has shown such persistent bad faith – in contrast to the spirit of “reciprocity and partnership” on which the agreement is based – there are reasonable grounds for termination.

The unfair practices employed against Palestinian trade with Europe are further evidence of Israel’s lack of commitment to a genuine partnership.

Finally, one might ask whether the agreement has served its aim of promoting peace. By helping to keep the settlements in business it may well have prolonged the conflict. And while the peace process is on hold, might it not make sense to put the Euro-Israeli agreement on hold too?

France has already said it wants tough action. But any decision would have to be unanimous – and Britain and Germany are resisting. Last January, Britain’s foreign secretary, Robin Cook, was asked in a letter if he would consider suspending the agreement on the grounds that Israel had infringed a clause dealing with human rights.

In response, Mr Cook pointed out another clause that says: “Nothing in this agreement shall prevent a party from taking any measures…which it considers essential to its own security”.

Mr Cook, who used to pride himself on Britain’s “ethical” foreign policy, commented: “Any EU moves towards suspension of the agreement on human rights grounds would involve lengthy and difficult negotiations with Israel on the relative weight to be attached to these two articles. These negotiations would leave little room for anything else in the EU-Israel relationship.”

So perhaps Ariel Sharon need not worry after all. For Europeans, arguing with the Israelis is far too tiresome.

Europe irresolute over Israeli trade fraud,4273,4178033,00.html