March 26, 2023
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Commentary: Consumers unwittingly fuel Israeli occupation

How often do you support military intervention in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank? Whether you are aware of it or not, we are bombarded by products supporting Israel’s military occupation and its building of settlements on claimed Palestinian land.

The United States’ active participation with the Israeli occupation has shaken up the global community for decades. The Business Insider reported that in 2012, the U.S. gave Israel $3.07 billion in military aid. In addition to the $3.15 billion in tax dollars that go directly to Israel each year, we support the occupation through products we buy.

Hewlett-Packard, or HP, is the main contractor of the Basel System. This system is installed and maintained in 40 checkpoints that run along a boundary separating Israel from the West Bank. Palestinians must undergo these physical and administrative obstacles to cross into Israel and other Palestinian cities. Motorola develops surveillance systems used in Israel’s settlements and military bases, and provides telecommunications equipment for the Israeli military.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement protests corporations profiting from the occupation. It began when the Palestinian civil society and organizations from around the world to assembled a list of companies contributing to the occupation of Palestinian land. Inspired by movements in South Africa during apartheid and the U.S. during the Jim-Crow era, the BDS movement urges boycotts against Israel until it complies with the principles of the United Nations and the Geneva Conventions, and stops infringing on Palestinian autonomy.

Sabra Dipping Company’s co-owner, Strauss group, was put on the boycott list after stating in 2010 that it supported the Israeli Army, which has been instrumental in maintaining the segregated state. L’Oreal, the cosmetics company, has a factory in Migdal Haemek, an Israeli settlement in Palestinian land. Like other settlements, Migdal Haemek has discriminatory laws that deny non-Jewish citizens from living in the town.

The push to boycott certain products is considered a consumer boycott, but movements toward artistic and intellectual boycotting also support the BDS movement. Musicians, artists, authors, speakers and other celebrities have made a conscious decision to leave Israel out of their touring schedules or not give lectures at a universities in Israel. Last May, Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author, declined an invitation as an honored speaker at a conference hosted by current Israeli president Shimon Peres. Roger Waters from Pink Floyd and Stevie Wonder are among the celebrities who have publicly advocated for Palestinian autonomy by choosing not to tour in Israel.

Strangely enough, the U.S. is the country with the least diverse spectrum of opinion when it comes to this issue. Some who assume all Jews or Israeli citizens support the occupation may perceive the BDS movement as anti-Semitic, yet Israeli and Jewish organizations, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, support the BDS movement.

By not knowing where products come from and where the profit goes, students are complicit in supporting Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Next time you buy Sabra hummus in Macs or the IC Square Food Court, or choose a bottle of L’Oreal shampoo at Wegmans or Walmart, consider the militarized institution you support with your money.