Israel’s manufacturing and export industries have suffered as a result of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction Movement. Various Israeli companies which profit from the exploitation of Palestinian labour and that have their plants in the illegal settlements have countered this movement by arguing that their businesses provide employment for the people of Palestine, and that the boycott is driven by anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiment. Let’s examine this debate in brief. It is true that Israeli owned companies in the illegal settlements employ a limited number of Palestinians, and may indeed pay them well in comparison to the majority of Palestinians who have been reduced to chronic unemployment and poverty as a direct result of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. By employing some Palestinians in its factories Israel does not make Palestine wealthier. In fact this graciousness of Israeli companies merely weakens Palestinian resistance to the brutal occupation, and enriches the aggressor by the work of the victims. Profits from these companies, and the taxes they pay, are not invested in the wider West Bank community. This money is used to further the military and economic invasion and vicious occupation. Exploiting the labour and the wealth of an occupied territory, in this manner, amounts to nothing other than a war crime. Are Palestinian companies able to compete in the same way in their own land? If not, why not?
Israeli propagandists will always be able to find ‘grateful’ Palestinian employees of their factories to provide testimonials to the goodness of their bosses. These lucky Palestinians have a choice between working for the occupiers and going home to share the abject destitution of their neighbours. It is a simple economic choice in a world where there are no other alternatives. We cannot blame Palestinians who choose this work in order to feed their families. By doing this they are making the best moral decision available to them. The best moral decision available to us is the continuation of a boycott of Israeli exports and services, and by continuing to work towards a world where Palestine and Palestinian workers can benefit from their own economic activity in their own sovereign territory. Is this anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic? Without a doubt, in the current scheme of things, this is anti-Israeli. As a state Israel is in clear breach of international law and every effort must be made by the international community to ensure that Israel behaves like a mature and responsible state. In the long-run we hope that this will mean we can stop being anti-Israeli because there would be no need for it. The accusation of anti-Semitism is cynical and comical. The appeal to historical wrongs to excuse present injustice has no currency in the modern world.