Published on 8 July 2015

How the boycott hurts Palestinians

In this small West Bank town, business with Jewish settler neighbors is crucial for economic survival.

By Brett Kline, published in Haaretz July 7, 2015
Calling for a boycott may be fashionable, but these everyday Palestinians are the people who will get hurt.
Thirty-four year old Samir is busy slicing wood on his ban saw for a kitchen cabinet  he is building for neighbors in the Beitar Ilit sttlement across the road. 
The planks of wood were imported from Sweden and purchased in Israel. They are stacked in his carpentry workshop on the muddy main street in the village of Husan, in the Jerusalem hills near Bethlehem. "I have clients from Beitar and Gilo, and if I could make contacts in Efrat, I would," he says in fluent Hebrew, referring to nearby Jewish settlements. "We trust each other. It is not about politics; it is about cooperation for survival."
Outside, workshops, construction supply depots, garages and stores all have signs in Arabic and Hebrew, and they are relatively busy with contractor customers, both Israeli and Palestinian. A young, bearded Haredi man drives his van away from a gas station after filling up. Nobody looks twice.
The BDS movement in Europe and the United States, which includes activist groups and student unions, has been stepping up calls to cut off Israel in the fields of culture, business and education, in order to protest the occupation. 
But why are they not calling on Palestinians in the West Bank to take part on a local level - to cut contacts with Israelis, and stop buying Israeli goods and services? It might sound like a logical move, but it is here, in the West Bank, that the boycott movement loses its logic.
The push by BDS leaders has made the boycott the most fashionable way for Europeans and Americans to protest against the Israeli occupation. But for Palestinians, this is a problem, to say the least.
How much contact do boycott proponents have with average Palestinians, not those who work in offices in Ramallah? If they were to come to Husan and dozens of other villages like it in the West Bank, the European and American activists would find that Palestinian entrepreneurs and workers want and need more contact with Israelis, not less.
"We small-time entrepreneurs in Palestine cannot survive without working with Israelis, and the benefits are mutual," Samir states. "For us, the boycott, the moukata'a, is ridiculous. Nobody here likes the Israeli occupation, but cutting ties would be a death wish"... Read more.