There’s an article in the Jewish Chronicle about the Foreign Office’s demands that goods produced outside the Green Line be labelled accordingly, to keep the terms of the Israel-EU trade agreement.
I haven’t really considered the question of boycotting the occupation adequately. For example, I know little about the circumstances of the settlements – how many generations their populations lived in them before Israel was established, the circumstances in which they grew up (again) after 1967. I don’t know how to respond to the Palestinian Authority Laws which forbids (with a death penalty) the sale of land to Jews. In the event of a two state solution, it looks as if the Jews in the settlements would not be safe to remain and pay their taxes to a Palestinian government. Israel’s security barrier is a big hint at a unilateral two-state solution and the settlers outside it are getting frantic about their homes and politically desperate. I know little about them, except they have a reputation for violence. There is certainly more to them than that, though. There always is, for everybody.
At the same time, occupiers shouldn’t get too comfortable on occupied land. If they have made it this far, there are two 3rd Year students from the settlements at City on Rosemary Hollis’s Olive Tree scholarships (6 Palestinian and 6 Israelis undertake a degree programme with a parallel social, cultural and academic programme towards conflict resolution). I would really love to hear their views on this.
I heard Rosemary Hollis (what a woman!) not long ago at SOAS talking about how both Israelis and Palestinians prefer a strong and uncompromising power to hide behind during the peace process. The US failed as this under Bush, as it ultimately did under Clinton after his affair with Lewinsky broke. So the news that the EU may take action to put targeted pressure on Israel to stop settlement expansion is pretty hopeful, given that the Israeli government may need to turn to its electorate and pro-settlement coalition members and make a strong case for a withdrawal. Pro-settlement coalition members opportunistically negotiate settlement expansion when they get the chance – Shas after the Mercav Harav seminary bombing being one example.
Labelling West Bank products by postcode, as required by the Foreign Office suggested by Mandelson, would allow people to distinguish between Israeli products from the settlement blocs which were negotiated at Taba to remain with Israel and those from the settlements beyond those areas.
There is a will in Israel to pull out of the settlements – maybe an uncompromising position on settlement expansion and the products of the settlements could help Israeli moderates to advance a peaceful resolution to the conflict and an end to the occupation.
If so, then I’m up for it. If not, then I’m not.
Update: The EU’s trade relations with Israel are not anything special – they’re part of the Euro-Mediterranean partnership was struck in Barcelona in 95, supported by E16bn from the EU budget for regulatory harmonisation, to create a free trade zone in the Mediterranean region. The countries of the Southern Mediterranean rim hardly trade among each other and the EU seeks better integration. The EU has an agreement with Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Syria, Tunisia. Spot who’s missing? The EU-Syria Association Agreement has been initialled but not yet ratified – Syria is pursuing WTO accession but has made little progress. The texts of the Association Agreements are turgid and the link to the Palestinian Authority one is dead. The EU is Israel’s biggest export market (Israel’s population has been subject to an official boycott by the Arab countries since before it was established) – the agreement involves waiving duty (There’s also a Code of Conduct on Countering Terrorism which “recognise[s] the links between peace, security, social and economic development and human rights”.)