Haaretz, Israel’s oldest daily newspaper, reported in 2009 that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “deep concern” on Wednesday about Israel’s decision to approve new settler homes in the occupied West Bank and urged the Jewish state to end all such activity.
“Such actions and all settlement activity are contrary to international law and the roadmap,” said a statement read out by UN spokesman Farhan Haq.
In April the UK’s largest mutual conglomerate, the Co-operative Group , became the first major European supermarket group to end trade with companies that export produce from illegal Israeli settlements, affecting four companies and contracts worth about £350,000.
The Co-op was extending its existing policy not to source produce from settlements that have been built on Palestinian territories in the West bank. Palestinian human rights campaigners welcomed this, saying it was the first time a supermarket anywhere in the west had taken such a position.
Marisa Johnson, a Quaker who served as an ecumenical accompanier in the West Bank as part of an international programme of human rights observers, reflected on the call to boycott goods from illegal settlements in the West Bank during a parliamentary meeting. In a recent issue of the Friend, she described it as a form of nonviolent witness alongside the oppressed, pointing out that Israeli people, who were trapped under Nazi domination are now trapped by the occupation.
In her presentation she quoted from an article published in The Independent on 7 June; Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Knesset and chairman of the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organisation, had written in support of the trade boycott and asked the international community to tell Israel:
“(I)t is impossible to be treated as the only democracy in the Middle East, while it is also the last colonial occupier in the Western world. It is not anti-Semitic and not anti-Israel to convey these messages. On the contrary: the settlers, the conquerors and their political allies – including Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel – are the real enemies of Israel’s future.”
The Jewish Chronicle reported that MP Sir Gerald Kaufman said he would “love to see legislation” against settlement goods but warned: “We have to be practical and accept no such legislation will go through this parliament. Boycotts are important.“ He added that there were plans to send officials from the Co-op — which banned settlement goods from its UK stores last month — to the West Bank to assist Palestinians in creating their own co-operatives.
Numerous Israeli settlements were established on Palestinian land following the six-day Arab-Israeli war in 1967. Today they number more than 100. Dozens more illegal outposts (settlements built without Israeli government authorisation) also now exist.
Under international law, all such encroachments in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered illegal.
The UN Development Programme estimates the Palestinian economy has contracted by 23% since 1999. The World Bank has identified the seizure of land for settlement building and future expansion as an intrinsic problem in the Palestinian economy, reducing and fragmenting the space available for economic development.