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Labeling Israeli products harms both Jews and Palestinians

Instead of fostering divisiveness, economic initiatives that promote cooperation and coexistence should be undertaken.

View of the SodaStream factory in Israel's Negev Desert near the Bedouin city of Rahat on April 7, 2019. Photo by Hillel Maeir/Flash90
View of the SodaStream factory in Israel's Negev Desert near the Bedouin city of Rahat on April 7, 2019. Photo by Hillel Maeir/Flash90
Shai Rosengarten. Credit: Courtesy.
Shai Rosengarten
Shai Rosengarten is deputy director of the Im Tirtzu movement and a public policy research student focusing on local authorities.

In the case of the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict, economic activities often become entangled with political discourse. One such contentious issue is the labeling of Israeli products. While this practice aims to inform consumers about the origin of goods, it inadvertently disregards the rights of both Jewish and Palestinian workers involved in their production.

The labeling of products from Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria has been a subject of international debate. Proponents argue that labeling is a necessary step towards transparency, enabling consumers to make informed choices and avoid supporting activities deemed illegal under international law. However, this approach overlooks the nuanced realities on the ground, particularly concerning the workforces involved.

Many Israeli settlements in the disputed territory are home to industrial zones and agricultural enterprises that provide employment opportunities for both Jews and Palestinians. Indiscriminately labeling products from these areas undermines the livelihoods of these workers and their ability to support themselves and their families. By stigmatizing their products, these workers face potential job losses and economic instability, exacerbating an already volatile situation.

This is not a theoretical issue. There was, for example, the case of the SodaStream plant in Mishor Adumim. Following enormous pressure from BDS activists, who demanded a boycott of the company, the plant was closed and moved to the Negev in 2014. As a result, more than 200 workers were fired, including dozens of Palestinians.

Labeling products also fails to recognize the complexities of economic interdependence between Israeli and Palestinian communities. Cooperation in the workforce transcends political boundaries, with Israeli businesses often employing Palestinian laborers and vice versa. Such collaborations foster mutual understanding and economic growth, providing a glimmer of hope for peaceful coexistence in the region. Labeling disrupts this delicate balance by instilling mistrust and erecting barriers to cooperation.

Moreover, labeling perpetuates an oversimplified narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It reduces a multifaceted issue to a black-and-white dichotomy, ignoring the voices of those directly impacted by such policies. Instead of promoting meaningful dialogue and reconciliation, labeling serves to further polarize and divide communities, hindering prospects for peace and prosperity in the region.

So, what is the alternative? Rather than resorting to blanket labeling measures that harm the rights of workers, efforts should be focused on initiatives that that promote economic development and cooperation between Jews and Arabs and uphold the rights of all workers, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity. This includes supporting businesses in Judea and Samaria that provide a livelihood to and foster cooperation between Jews and Arabs. Only through such an inclusive approach can we hope to build a future of peace and prosperity for all.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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