Diamonds from Africa, ginger from the settlements
Europe is waking up. The foreign ministers of that continent will soon issue regulations that will oblige products from the settlements to be marked as such. Good morning, Europe. Jerusalem, as usual, is fuming; it always fumes when anyone dares to mention the settlements. Jerusalem is in favor of boycotts but of course not those against Israel. It is in favor of economic sanctions but, heaven forbid, not against the settlements. The truth is that Jerusalem can calm down. This is merely a minimal step, of symbolic importance, unavoidable, but not anything that will bring about a change. Perhaps they will buy less ginger from Tekoa in the supermarkets of Paris’ 16th arondissement but the settlement enterprise will continue to flourish.
Of course, every consumer with a conscience in the world is entitled to know whether he is buying blood diamonds from Africa; sneakers manufactured in the sweat shops of Asia; perfumes tested on animals; stolen goods, or products from stolen lands. Europe owes this to its citizens; they should know what they are buying. Just like they should know what the components and nutritional values are of every item, it is their right to know what their moral and legal values are. After that, every consumer can decide for himself whether to smear his body with cream from the occupied shores of the Dead Sea or to drink Merlot wine from the occupied Golan Heights. It is difficult to understand how the consumer organizations in Europe did not demand this obligatory information until now.
Israel should actually welcome this step. If it is so convinced that the settlement enterprise is justified, why complain about marking the products it produces? On the contrary, if the enterprise is so justified, perhaps marking the goods will lead to greater consumption? Being angry might still hint that Israel is ashamed of its settlements. The settlers should have marked their products a long time ago; just as blue-and-white products give rise to pride among many consumers in Israel and abroad, so the settlements’ produce should give their producers a feeling of pride. But Israel and the settlers know that this is a problematic enterprise, to put it mildly, and that is why they are so determined to hide the source of products from the occupation. By revealing this Israeli embarrassment, Europe has already achieved something important. But this achievement is not sufficient. Another conclusion can be deduced from the response by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He was quick to attack the Europeans’ intentions and said it was proof of “a lack of understanding of the reality in the field.”
And once again, Lieberman is correct: The “reality in the field” is that the occupied territories long ago became an inseparable part of the one country – the Green Line has become blurred, and is as though it had never existed. That being the case, there is no longer any point to making products that come from the territories; all of Israel gives them its backing, whether by agreement or by remaining silent. Therefore, the conclusion to be drawn from Lieberman’s preaching is that Europe must not make distinctions or separate between things. Do not mark what comes from the settlements. If you want to try to influence Israel, to put pressure on it to end the occupation, boycott all of its produce. Jerusalem that opposes marking products from the settlements tells European consumers that they should not make a distinction. In this way, it is exposing all Israeli produce to a boycott.
But we can be confident that Europe will once again be scared by the “anger” of Jerusalem, to which will probably be added the holy ire of Washington as well. That is how Europe always conducts itself. At a time when public opinion on the continent is becoming more critical and even more and more hostile to Israel, this finds no resonance in the policies of the governments there. This gap is inconceivable in democratic countries. Fear of the past and fear of America descend upon the leaders of the continent and paralyze them.
In the midst of Operation Cast Lead, they all came to cheer on then-prime minister Ehud Olmert but did not bother to go to Gaza to see what it looked like. Now perhaps they will fulfill their duties, and use fine and weak print to affix the Mark of Cain, as required, on the products from the territories. Well done, Europe.