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boycott

Empirical data collected in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (last summer, so far unpublished) reveal that (at least) two “aid industries” exist in parallel. As expressed by one of our respondents (leader of an Islamic charity, Sept 21, 2015, Gaza Strip):

“We don’t get any support from European and American donors, these donors don’t deal with us, they are ashamed to deal with us. While they know the we are association providing services for wounded people, they think that the wounded people are military personnel; on the contrary, all the wounded people are civilians. They have been injured during the years of the Intifada and during the wars or the bombing of the Israeli army for many places and houses in Gaza. There are is a very sensitivity to the word ‘wounded’ or ‘injured’ or ‘prisoner’ by those donors (European and American), these donors are boycotting all the Palestinian associations dealing with these category of people wounded or prisoners.”

The one which is “ashamed” to deal with the other has also been accused of promoting neoliberal ideas at the expense of local, Palestinian national (nation-building) interests.

With reference to this complex world (of opinions and realities) two recent publications deserve attention:

Marie Juul Petersen (2015): For Humanity Or For The Umma?: Aid and Islam in Transnational Muslim NGOs. London: Hurst and Co

The book explores how Muslim NGOs conceptualise their provision of aid and the role Islam plays in this and offers insights into a new kind of NGO in the global field of aid provision. It also contributes more broadly to understanding ‘public Islam’ as something beyond political Islam. The book is based on empirical case studies of four of the biggest transnational Muslim NGOs, and draws on extensive research in Britain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Jordan and Bangladesh.

Linda Tabar and Omar Jabary Salamanca, eds (2015): Critical Readings of Development under Colonialism. Towards a Political Economy for Liberation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Ramallah: Rosa Luxemburg Foundation and Birzeit University’s Center for Development Studies

The point of departure of this latter publication is to elaborate on “the critical development discourse in Palestine” that has “become part of the overall debate of development under colonial settings.”

 

“Sanctions against third countries, individuals or entities, are an essential EU foreign policy tool that it uses to pursue objectives in accordance with the principles of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. (…) In general terms, the EU imposes its restrictive measures to bring about a change in policy or activity by the target country, part of a country, government, entities or individuals. (…) The political objectives and criteria of the restrictive measures should be clearly defined in the legal acts.”

Defining political objectives, measures and legal acts seems to be (un)likely. In the shadow of the events marking the likely start of a third intifada (or something similar) in Jerusalem, there are more and more articles reporting about the ‘red lines’ the EU wants to define. A confidential document – being prepared and distributed in at least 28 copies – discussed the hard-liner ‘restrictive’ actions the EU would take if Israel continues to build settlements especially in the E1 area. The potential proposed measures can be listed as follows: recalling the EU ambassador, restricting free-trade agreements between the EU and Israel, limiting cooperation with Israel in general, and/or marking products manufactured in the settlements for sale in EU supermarkets.

The EU’s official position has remained unchanged. The EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini has denied the claims, saying that the EU has no intention of imposing any sanctions, on the contrary: ‘the core of our worries and of our efforts is and will be not to react to negative steps, but to engage in positive processes ‘, EEAS Press Release, remarks by High Representative, Federica Mogherini, Brussels, 17/11/2014, Q&A section: Il n’y a pas de plan de ce type. J’ai vu un article d’Haaretz qui fait référence à un document de travail  et le publie. Il s’agit apparemment d’un document de travail interne demandé par les États membres il y a quelques temps, je dirais durant le mandat qui a précédé le mien, mais qui ne forme qu’une hypothèse de travail technique. Ce n’était pas sur la table des ministres aujourd’hui.).

The situation on the ground has also remained unchanged (or if changed, then to the worse). I would not be surprised if Israel would somehow ‘sanction’ the EU development projects in the Palestinian Territories, if the EU went too far in ‘discussing’ restrictive measures. The EU leadership seems to be aware of it. The philosophical question is whether it reflects on its wisdom or incompetence?

Sources: Christopher Harres, ‘European Union Gears Up For Sanctions Against Israel Over Settlements‘, International Business News, 17 November, 2014; Barak Ravid, ‘EU document suggests recalling envoys if Israeli settlements threaten two-state solution‘, Haaretz, 17 November, 2014; Forward, ‘Europe Insists No Plans for Anti-Israel Sanctions‘, The Forward, 17 November, 2014; i24news, ‘EU ‘deplores’ Israeli settlement plans but says no sanctions‘, 17 November, 2014;

 

The project focuses on foreign aid (and its role in the MENA region) and has not been so much interested in other forms of ‘international communication’ such as, for example, sanctions or boycotts, even if they could be understood as ‘negative aid’. Watching Ari Lesser’s Boycott Israel, but if you do, boycott all those other evil countries too, one can count almost 40 countries blamed for committing human rights violations (to mention a few: North Korea, China, Japan, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Congo DRC and some other countries from SSA, numerous Latin-American countries, former CCCP (post-soviet) countries and Middle Eastern states). Three of the listed countries belong to the ‘West’ (Germany, US, Japan), two of them are mentioned due to their crimes committed in the first part of the 20th century (Germany and Turkey) and Japan is being held responsible for ‘slaughtering innocent’ whales. The Palestinian Authority (PNA) is not mentioned, probably for some sort of political correctness, even if it has also been liable for human rights abuses regardless to the question ‘who’ represents the PNA. Bypassing the obvious question (on the rationality of boycotts being a sort of ‘excommunication’ to use a Christian, religious term), it is worthwhile to compare this arbitrary list of countries with another one prepared by the World Bank.

If counties are ranked on the basis of net ODA received between 2009-2013, (1) Afghanistan (6,7 billion USD/year, average), (2) Congo DRC (5,5 billion USD/year), (3) Vietnam (3,5 billion USD) can be found on the top of the list. It continues with (5) Pakistan (3,5 billion USD), (6) India (3,22 billion USD) and (7) Turkey (3,19 billion USD). Ten of the top 25 ODA recipients (measured by net ODA and receiving at least 1 billion USD annually) are ‘qualified’ participants of the Lesser-video. There are quite many countries violating democratic and human rights (for example, Nigeria and Bangladesh) that are not mentioned by Lesser but being among the top 25. It must also be acknowledged that there are ‘differences’ in terms of the parameters of violence. Certain states, to be more precise, certain governments do not protect women and their rights, others tolerate executions for blasphemy or widely arresting or detaining persons (in most cases their own citizens) arbitrary. Lesser and those liking his performance blames the international community for applying double standards vis-à-vis Israel. He is concerned with the unproportional international attention devoted to the Palestinian rights. Or he may worry for those not getting enough international attention. 

In more general terms one might also ask about the ‘collective blindness’ of the international community which (countries, governments and public alike) not only ignores state sovereignty, responsibility and ‘national’ self-determination by providing institutionalized (mainly humanitarian, but also development) aid for those that should be cared by their own leadership, but also plays into the hands of the very same leaders committing various crimes against their own people (at least according to Western and/or universal standards). If the Western argument evolves about the ‘responsibility to protect’ principle related to humanitarian intervention, one may think about further ‘rights’ and ‘duties’ related to the abstract ‘social contracts’ existing (at least hypothetically) between a foreign (developed) country and a citizen of another (developing) one. It is much easier to ‘protect’ by providing aid than to provide conditions for a meaningful life for the rest of the world (too). And it is more likely that societies are divided due to their members’ uneven access to aid than kept together – provided that ‘community’ among the people ever existed within the (nation)state boundaries.

Ari  Lesser (2013): Boycott Israel. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wF_IPieE5qM (accessed: 9-12-2013)

SPME (2013): Boycott Israel: Interview With Ari Lesser. http://spme.org/boycotts-divestments-sanctions-bds/boycott-israel-interview-with-ari-lesser/16025/ (accessed: 9-12-2013)

World Bank (2013): Net Official Development Assistance Received. Online database http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/DT.ODA.ODAT.CD/countries?order=wbapi_data_value_2011+wbapi_data_value+wbapi_data_value-last&sort=desc