Dear Badger,

Ever since starting here at Sussex I couldn’t help but notice the absence of certain products like Coca-Cola and Pineapples in our union shops and the campus co-op. It never occurred to me that it was due to a petition signed a few years back banning Israeli products until I was told by a friend.

I understand that Sussex is a politically involved university and is sensitive to what is going on around the world but there is a time and place where we, as outsiders, should take a stand back from what is quite frankly an external affair far from our concern. I am sure many societies, students and academics of the university may oppose my standpoint in this however the ban on Israeli and Israeli funded products should be abandoned. It does not just limit our choice of goods as a consumer but it is a racist and unjust.

No matter how much we may detest the Palestinian- Israeli conflict, and regardless of whose side we may stand on; Sussex University as a place of learning and as a community should be racially impartial. The private and individual perspectives of this conflict should be channelled through other means such as petitions, awareness campaigns and debates not through funnelling the ideologies of a set few onto the entire university.

Hence, I feel a referendum should take place to abolish the ban on Israeli goods on campus.

If you would like to say otherwise, write a letter back. Nothing better than a lively debate!

Yasmin Centeno

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The Badger

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5 Comments

  • To get things straight:
    1) Coca Cola was banned from union shops in 2005 due to the companies human rights abuses in Latin America such as killing Trade Union organisers. I am not an expert in Geography but I dont think that Israel is in South America
    2) Israel is not the only country that produces pineapples. Maybe it is not the season right now.
    3) Im missing the explonation why the ban is (a?) racist. By claiming this, it would mean that the ban would punish every Jew in the world and that every Jew in the world is responsible for the action of the State of Israel, which of course is not true. Hence, to say that banning Israeli goods is racist is a racist statement.

    To go further, Zionism, like almost every other form of Nationalism is racist. If someone can proof that he has Jewish ancestors, he can apply for an Israeli citizenships, no matter if he practise the religion, speaks Hebrew or even know anyone in Israel.In comparision, over six millions Palestinian refugees cannot return, even though they lived in this land for generations. Palestinians who live under the Israeli occupation are denied their basic human rights such as freedom of movement. Furthermore, their houses get demolished and their land confisticated to make room for Jewish-only settlements.
    As shown, the boycott of companies which are profiting from the occupation of Palestine is not racist but actually oppose racism.

    Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions is a form of non-violent resistance which helped to end Apartheid in South Africa and i think it can help to end Apartheid in Israel.

  • If “every form of nationalism is racist,” I trust that you’d also support a Union boycott of Scottish goods, Bosnian goods, Chechen goods, Kurdish goods, Basque goods and Québécois goods.

    Banning Israeli goods is racist because it fails to distinguish between those produced by Israeli companies which are complicit in human rights abuses, and those that aren’t.

    Plenty of Israeli companies actively engage with Palestinians, employ Palestinians and oppose the settlements – yet we still boycott their goods solely on the basis of their nationality. That is racism, and I rather suspect that it would not survive a legal challenge under section 13 of the Equality Act 2010.

    Furthermore, if you support boycotts as a means of ending human rights abuses abroad, I look forward to discussing the motion at the next Union members’ meeting where you propose boycotts of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, Syria, China, North Korea, Georgia, Belarus and Venezuela.

    (And in case it’s not clear: I agree Yasmin. The boycott of Israeli goods should be overturned because it is racist discrimination against numerous Israeli companies, and anyway involves the Union holding Israel to a higher standard than it holds other countries, which is patently unfair.)

    Gabriel Webber

  • Even if certain Israeli products are not made in belligerently occupied settlements such as Mishor Adumim, part of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement block in the industrialised Area C of the West Bank. Funding companies that produce goods in Israel indirectly funds the Israeli government and ergo the state of Israel, through trading tariffs/taxation etc.

    As many people will know the state of Israel has repeatedly been declared to be in breach of Article 49 of the Geneva convention due to it’s treatment of Palestinian people living in Israeli occupied territory. Article 49 states that unless there is an immediate threat of war within an occupied area, persons living under occupying forces must not be displaced from their homes or areas of work/schooling. Furthermore if such displacement does occur persons relocated must be (wherever possible) relocated with their families and in adequate housing.

    This is particularly relevant to the West Bank as in Areas such as Mishor Admim many people have been relocated, not because the Israeli government fears there will be a war but to make room for industrialisation and new Israeli and foreign businesses who are often offered huge tax breaks by the government for developing in belligerently occupied areas. According to a UN report published last year 560 Palestinian owned structures, including 200 residencies and 46 rainwater collection pools and cisterns have been demolished by Israeli authorities. Because of this 1006 people including 565 children have been made homeless.

    Finally, supporting further industrialisation, by not boycotting Israeli goods, particularly those made in the West Bank rather than Israel, provides funding for the ‘East 1’ project. Initiated by Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, the project is poised to cut off the West Bank from East Jerusalum (largely through heavy industrialisation) meaning that a Palestinian free state would no longer be a viable solution.

    This is in spite of Israel being a signatory to the Oslo accords in 1994, which state that such territories as The West Bank and Gaza be demilitarised by 1999, in order that an international ‘solution’ to the Israel/Palestine conflict remain on track.

    As for the claim that Israeli occupation is providing jobs for many Palestinians, this is nonsense and similar to claiming that Workfare in the UK provides people with fantastic career prospects! Infact, Israeli jobs often remove any prospect of independence Palestinian workers may have had. In the West Bank approximately 27,500 of an estimated Palestinian population of 150,000 are Bedouin or other herders, meaning that as land is taken from Palestinian people so are their jobs and financial independence as a large proportion of workers rely on access to the land.

    There is much more I could say here as the conflict has a long history dating back beyond the creation of the Israeli state in 1948. However, I might summarise what I’m trying to say in the following sentences for the sake of brevity.

    Unfortunately no government, despite their condemnation of Israel’s behaviour after signing the Oslo accords, is prepared to intervene to prevent the kind of human rights abuses that are ongoing in Palestine every day. (By intervene I don’t mean through military means as, as we have seen in other Middle Eastern countries this rarely provides a solution. What I do mean is taking action through trade embargos and other economic means that force the state of Israel to stop expansion into Palestinian territory, in other words boycott, divestment and sanctions.)

    As mentioned above such interventions worked in South Africa to bring down a similar system of apartheid and human rights abuse. It may yet work in Israel and occupied Palestine, however before this happens, people must remove from their minds the idea that boycotting the produce of a state that is attempting ethnic cleansing is any way wrong. It is not the people of Israel that are the problem, it is the actions of a belligerent state government, and that must never be forgotton in the context of this debate. Just as David Cameron’s views are not representative of all of the people of the United Kingdom the views of Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu are not representative of all the people of Israel. Therefore state actions are not necessarily reflective in any way of the personal views of the people of that state, regardless of their denomination. (Think how many people in the UK protested the war on Iraq in 2003 and how that still continued…)

    I for one am proud that my university has chosen to act in solidarity with Palestinian people and boycott apartheid. (Apart from the Veolia bins of course!)

    http://www.palestinemonitor.org/?p=7636

    http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_Area_C_Fact_Sheet_July_2011.pdf

  • I love how people defending Israel keep commenting about how its being held to a ‘higher standard’ than everyone else, it literally cracks me up. What higher standards? Israel is the only country in the world that has had so many UN resolutions passed against it for decades (around 65 last time I checked, which was a long time ago so might’ve increased) and yet which is allowed to routinely ignore them with no repercussions whatsoever and only increased aid and support. Israel has gotten away, and gets away daily with its repulsive settlers, with more crimes than any other state in this world, inflicted against a foreign population which it forcibly occupies and has stolen (and steals) their land. No what is ‘patently unfair’ is for a Palestinian family in their homes in Hebron being terrorised every night by settlers who attack their home and soldiers who kidnap their family members. What is ‘patently unfair’ is for Palestinians to have to use a sidewalk rather than walk on the main road because its reserved for ‘Israelis only’. What is patently unfair is for an bulldozer to come and demolish the house of generations and generations with no justification. What is patently unfair is for these things to happen on a daily basis while you worry wither you’re offending the rights of companies complicit, either directly or indirectly, in the Israeli apartheid occupation and state.

    and I love those who proudly claim ‘Israel employs Palestinians’, what a joke, they occupy and control every in and out and every aspect of the Palestinian economy, who aren’t even allowed to have their own currency, and then when Palestinians have no alternative but to work for their occupiers, they say ‘We employ Palestinians’. How dishonest are you people. They destroy an economy, never allowing it to build up, controlling all its imports and exports, and then use indigenous (cheaper) labour and brag about how that is somehow humane of them? Its like stabbing a person and then saying ‘I called him an ambulance’. Some humility for goodness sake.

    And when Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iran, etc. are guilty of the same human rights abuses that Israel has been and continues to be (I must also note the remarkable Eurocentricity of your list, well done) of another people on whom it has no legitimacy to control, which is more than can be said of the internal affairs of the states you mentioned (not to justify them), then you can do what you will. That does not however change the fact that Israel is an apartheid, colonial, non-declared nuclear state that is in contravention of more international laws than any other, so no, it is not racism to boycott companies who will benefit the economy of that state in its current form, it is racist to do the opposite. If there are Jewish companies who are against Israel’s policies than they should by all means be supported. Change the record, this slandering of any criticism/boycott of Israel as an anti-Semitic act has become an old and outdated tactic, and people are getting wise to it.

    And this diversion tactic of saying ‘look at the others’ every time Israel is criticised is also getting tedious; we’re talking about Israel’s crimes here, which have been ignored for far too long and are only now starting to get a bit off attention, not the entire problems of humanity. as for your list, which could be brought straight off a BBC broadcast; you want to boycott these countries? Go for it. Just don’t forget to boycott all the other countries who have committed human rights abuses, many of whom you conveniently ignored; the US to start with for one, the larger killer of civilians in the past few decades, and the one which has used and tested more illegal weapons against civilian populations than any other during the past half-century. Or will you not boycott them because of your cultural affinity towards them? Good luck!

  • There are some things Ive forgotten to mention. I was getting hungry, so I went to the co-op to buy a can of coca-cola and some pineapples. I was surprise to find those things there. As a student Im not used to do research. I usually just ask a friend and use this as a reference.

    Anyway, the co-op banned products made from the Occupied Palestinian Territories in a nation wide policy which has nothing to do with Sussex University.
    The ban in the Union shops however was not achieved simply through a petition but through a campus-wide referendum where the majority voted in favour of a ban of Israeli goods.

    Regarding the writer of the other comment below, may I ask kindly not to take quotes out of context, please. I did not say EVERY form of nationalism is racist, I said ALMOST every form of nationalism is racist. All the form of racism mention are by people who are struggling for independence and self-determination. (Funny though Palestine was not mentioned).
    Scottish nationalism is of course different than British nationalism. I would be very worried if the BNP would get into power, because I would have to leave the country to make sure that Britian can maintain a white majority in its population. I would not be so worried if the SNP would get into power, because I dont think they have the intention to demolish my house in Brighton to make place for a Scottish only settlement.

    Also, if people want to boycott North Korean goods than they should go for it. I mean there are so many North Korean goods in the Union shops, its unbelievable. i just went to buy a North Korean pineapple, but I couldnt find one. Maybe they have all been sold out.

    To say that the Union is singling out Israel is not true. The ban of Coca-Cola and Nestle products had nothing to do with Israel and to say so is just an attempt to shield Israel from criticism. But theres a reason why I think that Israel should be put to a higher standard. Unless the other countries mention in the comment above, Israel is a “Western-style” democracy which is backed by the UK, the EU and the US. Furthermore, Israel is a ethno-centric, colonial settler state. Also, no other country in the world has violated so many UN-resolutions than Israel. Still Israel gets “rewarded” by the West for doing so with generous aid pay and pereferential trade agreements. In addition, Israel has been exempted from sanction from Western countries for breaking international law. Due to the failure of our governments to put sanctions on Israel, I would argue that it is up to the “ordinary citizens” to put economic pressure on Israel. I dont see a boycott just as a form to end human rights abuses abroad, because you can find them in every country and not only in the countries mention in the comment above which are all in the third world.I see it as a mean to stop the occupation and Israel’s apartheid system and to bring justice to the Palestians.

    Some people may not agree with this. But I dont see anyone of those anti-BDSlers campaining against US and Europe sanctions on Iran, Cuba or North Korea by saying they are just racist.

    To conclude, if people want to have a referendum on the referendum because they dont like Ubuntu Cola then they should go for it. But I think that the majority is more concerned about the situation in Palestine than about consumer choices.