Call to ban imports from settlements is misplaced
OPINION:An NGO’s request for an embargo on goods from Jews in the West Bank is mere gesture politics, writes BOAZ MODAI
AS AN Israeli, coming from a country with a very strong tradition and ethos of aid to less-developed countries, I have great admiration and respect for the ideals and practical work of NGOs around the world.
Irish NGOs have an especially good reputation internationally. Trócaire is particularly distinguished, working in 28 countries across troubled regions of the world like Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
However, I find highly objectionable the actions of Trócaire in recent days – calling for an EU ban on goods from Jewish communities in the West Bank – and the arguments set forth in the opinion piece by Trócaire’s executive director Justin Kilcullen (“Impose ban on imports from Israeli settlements”, October 4th).
As I’m sure Mr Kilcullen is well aware, there are many cases around the world of disputed territory, unresolved conflict etc, yet Trócaire sees fit to single out Israel, and Israel alone, in a call for sanctions. As Trócaire is an NGO, I believe it is improper for it to involve itself in a partisan international agenda against Israel – the only democracy in the Middle East and the only country in that troubled region where NGOs are free to work and say what they like.
I also doubt if all donors to Trócaire share the same one-sided political view expressed by Mr Kilcullen – I assume they do not.
Mr Kilcullen’s opinion piece is full of inaccuracies and bereft of proper context. It is not correct that over “500,000” Israelis live in Judaea and Samaria. Their number is about 350,000. He states that 42 per cent of West Bank land is allocated to Jewish “settlements”. In fact, Jewish towns and villages cover less than 2 per cent of this territory.
True, some other space is taken up by security zones, but people like Mr Kilcullen never like to say why such security is necessary. It is because Jews in Judaea and Samaria live in daily fear of assault, or worse, at the hands of Palestinian extremists.
By contrast, the fifth of Israel’s population who are Muslims are subject to no such fears and insecurities within Israel. In the West Bank, Jewish towns and villages exist only in Area C, a largely barren area that incorporates a mere 4 per cent of the Palestinian population.
In other words, 96 per cent of the Palestinian population live in parts of Judaea and Samaria where there are no Jews living at all. Furthermore, there have been no new settlements since 1998; the only construction for Jews in this area since then is within the already existing ones.