A statement on the boycott of produce from the Israeli Settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory
Greenbelt is calling on its supporters to make a stand by boycotting produce from the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. Our call comes at the culmination of our three-year ‘Just Peace’ campaign (through which we've highlighted the issues of injustice suffered by those living on the ground in Israel/Palestine, especially the Palestinians suffering under the Israeli occupation). It also comes after careful consideration and consultation with our festivalgoers, partners and, most importantly, those on the ground in the region – agencies working in Israel/Palestine and ordinary people living there.
Greenbelt director, Paul Northup, says: “We call for a boycott of produce from the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. And, while our settlement boycott statement at this time marks the formal end of our three-year Just Peace campaign, we will continue in the struggle for a just peace in the region. We have been highlighting the circumstances confronting those living in occupied Palestine for decades now and we will continue to do so: bringing speakers from the region (Palestinian and Israeli, Jew, Christian and Muslim) to the festival; supporting all those on the ground in the region practising non-violent resistance and working for peace and reconciliation; and taking trips to the region with our friends Amos Trust.”
Greenbelt's call for a boycott arises not only from concerns expressed by several of Greenbelt’s partners and many more human rights agencies and community leaders working in the region, but also from those within Greenbelt's own festival-going constituency who have become active campaigners for a just peace in the region.
But we recognise that the situation on the ground in Israel/Palestine is complicated, and that there are many and varying views on how to respond to it. So, for instance, one of our main partners, the Methodist Church, have already made a call for the boycott of settlement goods. And another of our main partners, Christian Aid, while not calling for a boycott, are calling on the government to impose a UK ban on the import of settlement goods, due to the illegality of the Israeli settlements under international law. On the other hand, our associate partners, BibleLands, while passionately committed to a just peace in Israel/Palestine, are unable to make such a call, for the reasons outlined below.
But what all our partners and we at Greenbelt believe is that people should engage as much as they are able with the region, and we are convinced that this is best done by continuing to visit the land once called Holy.
Paul concludes: “In the 1980s, Greenbelt joined people all over the world in championing the boycott of goods from South Africa as a form of protest against the unjust apartheid regime there. The truth and reconciliation that finally came to that country gives us hope now. Greenbelt is committed to standing with global civil society in joining with these new forms of boycott, in the hope that their combined actions may play a part in influencing the Israeli government and leading to a just settlement for all peoples in the region.”
The UN, and most international governments, recognise that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory is illegitimate under international law and that the Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory represent a particular challenge to a peaceful settlement in the region.
But what to boycott?
In December 2009, Defra (the UK Government Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) introduced new advice on labeling, recommending that packaging of products imported from the West Bank should distinguish between Palestinian areas and Israeli settlements. (See this Guardian article from that time.)
For help with the sort of goods to watch out for, check out the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign website here (recognising the PSC is calling for full BDS).
More recently, the Methodist Church and the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR) have engaged with supermarket chains. And, on the basis of this, they have drafted the following background advice on writing to supermarkets:
- UK Supermarkets and ‘own-label’ goods from Israel and Palestine (The Methodist Church)
- UK and Irish supermarkets’ policies and practices regarding the sourcing of goods produced in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories
 Our associate partners BibleLands encourage everyone to buy Palestinian goods wherever possible, but they are unable to support a Settlement Boycott for two reasons: (1) they own and run a special needs school in occupied East Jerusalem, the Helen Keller School, which serves Palestinian children with visual impairment. This school is partially funded by the Israeli Ministry of Education in accordance with the Israeli law on special needs education which prevails in East Jerusalem; (2) under a law passed by the Israeli Knesset in July, 2011, any organisation or individual in Israel found to have taken part in or supported any call to boycott Israeli goods (including settlement goods) can be sued under Israeli law for loss of revenue. With its own legally registered operations in occupied East Jerusalem, which puts it in a different position from the Methodist Church and Christian Aid, this is not a risk that BibleLands can afford to take.