Arab workers at the now shuttered West Bank SodaStream plant
Arab workers at the now shuttered West Bank SodaStream plant
Photo: Haim Horenstein
A family in the settlement of Ofra

BDS wins but the Palestinians lose

Opinion: Palestinians working for companies on the UNHRC blacklist of firms operating in the West Bank hold senior positions and earn up to three times the wages paid by businesses within the PA, but potential boycotts could put an end to that

Ben Dror Yemini |
Published: 02.13.20 , 23:56
The West Bank settlements remain a central point of contention in Israeli society.
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  • Most Israelis like the settlers themselves. They are considered the salt of the earth, the first to volunteer, first to join combat units in their military service and first to give back to their communities.
    A family in the settlement of Ofra A family in the settlement of Ofra
    A family in the settlement of Ofra
    (Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg)
    But most Israelis do not support the settlements. A 2017 study shows a majority of Israelis oppose settlement expansion beyond the blocs, and 69% of Israelis would support a withdrawal from the settlements in the event of an agreed resolution to the conflict with the Palestinians.
    When international organizations interject themselves into the legitimate, internal discourse in Israel, they help those on the extreme right who advocate an expansion of settlements.
    An Israeli settlement in the West BankAn Israeli settlement in the West Bank
    An Israeli settlement in the West Bank
    (Photo: EPA)
    These organizations are not seeking a resolution of the conflict and are comprised of predominately non-democratic member states.
    Though some of them have relations with Israel - overtly or otherwise - they are consistent in their long-held anti-Israeli positions.
    The UN Human Rights Council, which on Wednesday published a blacklist of companies operating in the West Bank settlements, voted to accept 18 resolutions condemning Israel in 2019; in contrast, just seven resolutions were passed condemning the entire ills of the rest of the world.
    UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
    UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
    (Photo: AP)
    With Venezuela that persecutes its own citizens, Iran that kills anti-government protesters, Myanmar that carries out ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya minority and China that imprisons millions of Muslims in re-education camps, Israel is still the problem.
    Criticism of settlements is not anti-Semitism, but according to the definition of anti-Semitism in the guidelines adopted by the EU in 2016, the anti-Israel obsession of the UNHRC is indeed a manifestation of this phenomenon.
    There are no immediate implications expected as a result if the publication of the list, but it has to be said that a major company like SodaStream, best known as the maker of the consumer home carbonation products, had to close down its West Bank production plant because of international pressure from supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).
    Arab workers at the now shuttered West Bank SodaStream plant Arab workers at the now shuttered West Bank SodaStream plant
    Arab workers at the now shuttered West Bank SodaStream plant
    (Photo: Haim Horenstein)
    Companies named on the UNHRC list may find themselves in a similar situation.
    The industrial areas of the West Bank employ close to 20,000 Palestinian workers. They are not taken advantage of, nor are they abused by a colonialist system.
    Palestinians working for many of the companies hold senior positions and earn up to three times the salaries paid by companies operating within the Palestinian Authority.
    Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's government had itself attempted to sway Palestinians away from these positions and enforce a boycott of companies and products, but failed when employees opted to keep their jobs.
    Their income is a vital part of the Palestinian economy and its removal would have long term implications they could not support.
    SodaStream's move out of the West Bank was seen as a win for the BDS movement, but it cost hundreds of jobs and the Palestinian employees paid the price.
    Israeli companies named on the blacklist may suffer consequences down the road, but their Palestinian workers will be those who will pay the price.
    The discussion over the legality or future of the settlements is a legitimate and important one to have - but it is far removed from the boycott campaign that opposes Israel's very right to exist.
    If and when an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is reached, industrial parks with Israeli companies will be necessary in order to provide jobs.
    BDS, it must be said, scored a win but the symbolic achievement will come at a price and the Palestinian workers will be made to pay it.

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