While Israel continues to defy international law by further settlement approval and a lack of cooperation with the European Union about the recently publish guidelines restricting projects in areas beyond the Green Line, the occupying power is now allegedly expressing ‘concern’ about the livelihood of Palestinians whose quality of life, according to well-rehearsed colonial discourse, depends upon Israeli enterprises in the areas.
An article published in Haaretz quotes the head of the Shomron Regional Council, Gershon Mesika, as stating “The European Union’s direction has no effect on us at all”. While the guidelines are primarily targeting research grants and government projects, fears of the EU issuing directives urging member states to boycott settlement produce remains a tangible fear for the Israeli government, which has already suffered setbacks as companies targeted by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), such as Unilever, Veolia and Dexia Bank moved from Israel in an attempt to salvage profits.
However, while in 2011 Ehud Barak acknowledged the possibility of eradicating the apartheid state through boycotts, defiance has mingled with artificial concern over ‘harm’ to the peace process and how Palestinians working in Israeli settlements would be affected. Amidst allegations that Palestinian families would suffer and people would lack the opportunity to work together to promote ‘peace’, supporters of the boycott are described as detached and having no idea of the ramifications which would befall Palestinians, should such a scenario transcend the confines of principles. “People in Europe do not understand the ramifications of their declaration ‘We won’t buy products from the settlements'”.
The interpretation of Israel’s rhetoric lies in its disassociation from the illegality of settlement enterprise. By reinforcing colonial discourse, Palestinians, observers and activists are expected to conform to the processes rendering the occupation of Palestine irreversible. Ma’an research has highlighted the unsustainable situation which forces Palestinians to work in servitude for the occupiers for no significant benefit. The employment opportunities elucidated so patronisingly by Israel and its apologists are a mere reflection of the nature of the illegal occupation. Palestinians are coerced into poverty or servitude within their limited choices – any opposition is treated as ingratitude. If employment in settlement enterprises is taken up with the prospect of alleviating a fraction of suffering, there is still the enforced collective humiliation of the people to contend with, as a result of the necessary financial compromise. Contrary to what Israel strives to impart, the suffering experienced by Palestinians is exacerbated by the actual existence of Israel’s colonial and apartheid rule.
Israel would do well to remember that the call for boycott originated from Palestinian human rights groups, not as a European incentive. If history indeed sets any precedent, the EU is unlikely to endanger its economic and military ties with Israel in a manner which endangers the existence of the Jewish state. If Palestinian life has been compromised due to Israel’s impunity which has been endorsed repeatedly by international organisations, it is up to activists to challenge selective policies designed to entrench the occupation and affirm the understanding that leniency with regard to settlement enterprise consolidates the exploitation of generations of Palestinians.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.