A new report examines how “Israeli agricultural export companies are profiting from the Israeli colonisation of Palestinian land” – and how their produce ends up in British supermarkets.
‘Apartheid in the fields: From occupied Palestine to UK Supermarkets’, published by Corporate Watch, combines “interviews with Palestinian agricultural workers and farmers in the West Bank and Gaza”, along with “information on many of the Israeli exporters and UK supermarkets.”
Corporate Watch describes itself as “an independent, not-for-profit research and publishing group that investigates the social and environmental impacts of corporate power.”
Citing the 2005 call from Palestinian groups for a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, the report’s authors state their intention is to provide “a resource for campaigners seeking to follow this [BDS] call.”
The report is broadly divided into four sections: a focus on farming and agriculture in the Gaza Strip, interviews with Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley, a look at Israeli export companies profiting from the occupation, and data on UK supermarkets who stock such goods.
In the Gaza Strip, Palestinian agricultural workers are kept off valuable land close to the border fence by routine violence from Israeli forces, who enforce a ‘no-go’ buffer zone with live fire. At the same time, Israeli restrictions on goods leaving Gaza – especially those destined for the West Bank – have played a major role in the deliberate destruction of the blockaded enclave’s economy.
Meanwhile, in the West Bank, “Israeli agricultural companies…operate on land which has been taken from Palestinians by force.” As a result, “communities, whose livelihood has been decimated by the occupation, have no option but to work for below the minimum wage on land which, in many cases, previously belonged to their families.”
Corporate Watch researchers found Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements being paid as little as half the Israeli minimum wage, in unsafe working conditions, and without holiday or sick pay. While the Israeli government, settlers, and opponents of BDS, have claimed a boycott only harms Palestinians, workers told the report authors a different story.
“It is important for you to tell people that these settlements are illegal and that we don’t have any choice except to work for them”, said Mohammed, who works in Tomer settlement. Zaid, a worker at Beqa’ot, said: “We support the boycott even if we lose our work. We might lose our jobs but we will get back our land. We will be able to work without being treated as slaves.”
Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian land is an ongoing process; just recently, a further 234 hectares of West Bank territory was declared ‘state land’ by occupation authorities.
In a recent report for International Business Times UK, a 14-year-old Palestinian boy working in an illegal settlement said: “I don’t have a choice but to work there, I have to because of the economic situation.” He continued: “If they [the settlers] were not here, we would be allowed on the land, own the land and cultivate it, and make an income.”
The Corporate Watch report states that “it is not enough for supermarkets and retailers to claim that they do not source goods from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”, but that in addition, “they should cease sourcing from companies that are profiting from the seizure of Palestinian land and from a captive workforce living under occupation.”
By sourcing products from companies like Arava, Mehadrin, Edom, and Hadiklaim, supermarkets are supporting the settler economy and acting against the wishes of the Palestinian people, who are calling for a boycott of these companies and of all Israeli goods until Israel ends its occupation.
The report can be downloaded here.