Settlement product labeling in Canada is a load of BDS

In the wake of the Palestinian Authority’s failed attempt to procure statehood via a unilateral gambit at the UN, the PA has devised another way to protract the conflict with Israel, forestall recognition of the Jewish State, and assault Israel’s legitimacy.

Instead of pursuing an economic peace to improve the quality of life for Israelis and Palestinians, the PA’s diplomatic corps both internationally and domestically here in Canada, has advocated a policy calling for “Goods from occupied lands to not be part of (a) trade deal with Israel.” At least, that was the headline that blared in an op-ed published in the Toronto Star on May 22 by the Palestinian representative to Canada, Said Hamad.

Hamad, a self-described “ambassador” — “self-described” as the PA hasn’t secured state sovereignty — was regrettably given a platform and prominent column inches in Canada’s largest circulation daily newspaper to promote a policy that has been accused as having “racist characteristics.” It is also a fatally flawed proposition, as it would not only hurt goods produced in Israel, but imperil the jobs of over 30,000 Palestinians who are gainfully employed and have work insurance in the settlements.

With South Africa and Denmark issuing directives forcing importers to remove “Made in Israel” tags from products originating in West Bank settlements, and with Ireland considering following suit, Mr. Hamad’s op-ed was notable for its convenient failure to articulate what constitutes a settlement product and how one can distinguish between the West Bank and Israel. Are there are any international precedents that can explain why Israel is the only country in the world being singled out for this type of politically motivated opprobrium?

Interestingly, Mr. Hamad was ambiguous about what land he considers as being “occupied.” PA President Mahmoud Abbas, along with official state-controlled Palestinian TV and its school textbooks, doesn’t mince words, presenting the PA’s longstanding narrative that all of Israel is “occupied” land. One wonders, then, if Mr. Hamad was referring to areas in the West Bank, east Jerusalem, within or outside the Green Line, or Jerusalem proper? Where does the buck stop? As Daniel Gordis contended on this topic:

If a rape crisis hotline serves people on both sides of the Green Line, must it be boycotted? What about Israeli-Palestinian coexistence organizations based in Haifa, but which do work in the settlements?

Despite Hamad’s arguments, Ynet News reported that the Palestinian Authority continues to market Israeli products in Palestinian cities, with locals seeing no reason why they should stop purchasing fine-quality merchandise.

This PA ploy to scapegoat Israel and the settlements is reminiscent of the Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence. Both are untenable and serve only to stigmatize Israel and demonize the Jewish state. Israel’s presence in these areas did not come about in a colonial conquest, but was rather the result of pan-Arab aggression in 1967. As to the efficacy of BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions), even one of the most vocal anti-Israel adherents, Professor Norman Finkelstein, has disavowed the campaign, calling it “silliness, childishness, and a lot of leftist posturing:”

I mean we have to be honest, and I loathe the disingenuous. They don’t want Israel… there’s a large segment of the movement that wants to eliminate Israel.

As BDS serves only to challenge Israel’s legitimacy, it’s unfortunate and antithetical to the peace process for Mr. Hamad and the PA to embrace it as a tactic. If Mr. Hamad is genuinely interested in the “pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” as he claimed in his Toronto Star op-ed, then he should encourage his boss, President Abbas, to embrace Prime Minister Netanyahu’s repeated invitations to immediately start direct negotiations, and declare boldly what no other Palestinian leader has dared declare before him: that he will accept a Jewish State.

About the Author
Mike Fegelman is Executive Director of HonestReporting Canada, a non-profit organization which ensures fair and accurate Canadian media coverage of Israel.