Israel: The time is ripe for sanctions to force Israel to respect international law

Le Monde Diplomatique

This month the UN will publish the findings of its inquiry into Israel’s possible war crimes in Gaza in 2008-9. These are unlikely to lead to legal proceedings, so there are calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions to force Israel to comply with international law

The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel has gained momentum after four years of near silence. It was launched on 9 July 2005 by a group of Palestinian organisations, a year after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled, in an advisory opinion, that the wall built in the occupied Palestinian territories was illegal. It is a protest against Israel’s failure to honour its international obligations...
...On 30 March 2008 the BDS movement organised a global day of action, a move decided a few weeks earlier at the World Social Forum in Belém, Brazil. Calls to support this day of action were heard from Jewish communities everywhere and even from within Israel.

The boycott, within this non-violent resistance strategy, calls on consumers not to buy products made in Israel (whether by local or foreign companies) or in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Lists of goods (fruit, vegetables, fruit juice, cut flowers, tinned fruit, biscuits, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics) and their barcodes have been published, especially in Europe. Other tactics include publicity campaigns, petitioning of store managers to withdraw blacklisted products, awareness campaigns directed at central purchasing agencies, and disruption operations in supermarkets...

...There are also campaigns by organisations for the suspension of the EU-Israel association agreement, on the grounds that Israel has failed to observe article 2, which requires “respect for human rights and democratic principles”. This agreement, which was signed in 1995 and came into force in 2000, exempts Israeli goods from EU customs duties. There is a traceability problem: many goods declared by Israel as Israeli are produced in Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

A survey reveals that 21% of Israeli exporters have had to cut their prices as a result of the boycott, after a significant loss of market share, especially in Jordan, the UK and Scandinavia...

...The boycott of Israeli goods is the aspect of the BDS campaign that has received most coverage, but other attempts have been made to isolate and bring pressure to bear on Israel. There have also been cultural, academic, diplomatic and sporting boycotts. And an Israeli tourism fair in Paris in January was cancelled; Israeli tourism posters were removed from the London underground in May; Hertz, the car rental market leader, declined to have its name associated with a promotional offer by El Al; and Sweden refused to join international air manoeuvres because Israel would be taking part.

The divestment element of the campaign, aimed at companies doing business in the Middle East, is beginning to take effect. A campaign to force the Franco-Belgian bank Dexia to withdraw from Israel, with the slogans “Dexia, get out of Israel!” and “Israel Colonises, Dexia Finances”, led 14 Belgian municipalities to leave the bank, which was financing Israeli settlements in the occupied territories through its Israeli subsidiary.

The French power and transport group Alstom has also been targeted and was excluded from Sweden’s AP7 national pension fund portfolio in early 2009. The fund’s decision followed the example of the Dutch financial institution ASN Bank, which took action against another French firm, Veolia Transport, in 2006. Participating in the construction of a tramway in Jerusalem has deprived these multinationals of a number of contracts: in France, the Greater Bordeaux urban community cancelled Veolia’s contract for waste management, worth $53.3m; in the UK, Sandwell borough council excluded Veolia from the bidding for a waste collection and recycling contract worth $1bn; and in Sweden, Stockholm council cancelled its contract for operating the city’s metro system, worth $2.5bn...

...What of sanctions against the Israeli state? Bogged down in arguments, the UN has difficulty in acting as a guarantor of the international rule of law. Although many other states are subject to sanctions, and though they proved their worth during the struggle against apartheid, sanctions have yet to be applied to Israel...

...The Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), supported by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), has been pursuing in the French courts, since 2007, against Alstom, Alstom Transport and Veolia Transport. In 2004 CityPass Limited, a consortium governed by Israeli law in which Veolia Transport and Alstom Transport had minority interests of 5% and 20% respectively, signed a concession contract with the Israeli government for the construction and operation of the tramway that would serve Jerusalem and part of the West Bank, as mentioned above. The court case aims to prove that the contract is illegal.

The companies contested the subpoena, arguing that the Nanterre high court, before which the case had been brought, was materially and territorially incompetent; and that the petitions were not admissible since the AFPS and PLO were not qualified to act as complainants, and their interests were not affected by the contract. The court still ruled on 15 April that the AFPS could bring a valid action against the three French companies, since the execution of the contract would harm the collective interests that it defends. The court also dismissed the argument that Israel fell outside its jurisdiction. Israel is not a party to the court proceedings but is considered as an occupying power in the area of the West Bank where the disputed tramway is being built and will be operated. Alstom decided to appeal, Veolia decided not to...

Jews Sans Frontières has two interesting links at the end of a recently posted blog on the subject including one website that lists the companies who profit from the occupation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

doesn't it seem hypocritical to say Israel has not lived up to obligations when Hamas has been shooting rockets from Gaza ever since Israel withdrew?

from today's paper (Sept. 3 2009)

Gaza militants fire five mortar shells into west Negev

Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired five mortar shells into the western Negev on Thursday, further testing a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

Since March 29th 2006