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Corporate Interests Fuel Palestine Land Occupation

From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
http://www.btlonline.org
----------------------------
Between the Lines Q&A
featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Feb. 10, 2009

Distributed by Squeaky Wheel Productions
http://www.squeakywheel.net

Corporate Economic Interests
Fuel Occupation of Palestinian Land

RealAudio MP3

Interview with Dalit Baum,
project coordinator of Who Profits from the Occupation,
conducted by Melinda Tuhus


As more people around the world have become aware of Israel 's abuse of the rights of Palestinians -- both with its recent attack on Gaza and its violent, restrictive and humiliating occupation of the West Bank -- there is growing interest in targeting the economic underpinnings of Israel 's power and control.

A longstanding Israeli political organization, the Coalition of Women for Peace, has spent the past two years researching three issues related to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land: industries located within the illegal settlements of the West Bank, the economic exploitation of Palestinians, and the companies that help Israel enforce its brand of apartheid. The group has recently launched a website called "Who Profits from the Occupation," detailing the activities of some 200 Israeli and international companies.

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Dalit Baum, who teaches feminist theory at Haifa University and is project coordinator for Who Profits from the Occupation. She explains how members of her group became involved and what their research revealed. Baum expresses hope that the website will serve as an informational clearinghouse for individuals and groups, inside and outside Israel , working for corporate accountability, social justice and labor rights.

DALIT BAUM: We understood that it is not only political or religious interests that fuel the occupation – not anymore. More and more over the years we found out there are economic interests involved. Not only that, but the occupation itself has an economic arm – it used economic tools to oppress and repress the Palestinian population. So even though we are a feminist organization that deals with public opinion and we are very adept working with words, we decided we wanted to know more about the economics of it, in order to try and change it, and influence the economic interests And that’s how we started. We started two years ago, and we are not economists or researchers – we’re just activists. And we started going out to the checkpoints in the West Bank – going out to the Wall, the fence, the settlements – taking pictures, asking questions, trying to see around us which are the logos or the companies or the corporate symbols we see around us, so we can see who’s involved, who has a stake in it. And now we came up with this website, which is just the beginning of the culmination of our work, because we actually have more than 1,000 companies in our database, and we’ve put online only 200 so far, because we’re trying to build a case against each and every one of them, and be very careful about documenting all our information and checking each and every fact, so this takes time.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What are some of the most egregious things you’ve found, in terms of what companies are doing there?

DALIT BAUM: You know, it’s very interesting to look at our categorization, because I think this is one of the main tools we actually offer to the movement right now. It’s important to see that different companies that have different types of involvement in the occupation also involve different ways of dealing with them from civil society, different responses from us. And it’s very important to note that the companies we have online do not constitute a boycott list. It’s not that all of them need to be boycotted. It’s actually very wrong to think of it that way. There are many actions that can be taken, and different ones for different companies. There are all these civilian companies that make tools and information and technologies and different services that are used in the direct oppression of civilian populations, civilian Palestinian population – this is what we call control of population. For example, EDS that belongs to HP – Hewlett Packard – they have supplied a system that does biometric identification and is used at Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank . I think companies should be told very clearly that this is not a reasonable business activity, that people don’t want their – I don’t know – computer companies to be involved in such things.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I know you’re not proposing that all these companies be targets of boycotts, but do you think it’s ever appropriate to boycott any of them, like Motorola or Caterpillar, which are involved in construction and security work in the occupied territories?

DALIT BAUM: Oh, I think that is obviously appropriate. What’s more important, though, is not whether or not it’s appropriate, but whether or not it’s effective. So I really want us to be effective as a movement. I want us to be able to change the companies’ policies and stop the occupation – raise the price on these businesses.

As an Israeli activist, it is very hard for me to say you should boycott everything to do with the occupation, because the entire Israeli economy is somewhat involved with the occupation. This is, of course, a fact. Israeli economy has been benefiting from the occupation for many, many years. It has used free land, free resources, free labor, very cheap labor from the Palestinians for many years, and all sorts of unfair advantages over the Palestinian market, and so on. So I cannot really view a consumer boycott as a tool for being uninvolved or clear or clean from this involvement in the occupation. I don’t have that privilege – we are deeply inside that economy.

And I think Americans should think of it in the same way. The U.S. has been financing the occupation. You know, you’re paying taxes, taxes are used to send weapons into Israel in order to bomb Gaza You are involved – that’s it. Now, what can we do in order to be effective about it? In order to be effective you have to have collective action You have to have specific campaigns that target things that can be changed and start having small successes and then bigger successes, and then, Inshallah, we can free Palestine .

For more information on the group's research on business interests in Israel and the West Bank , call the Coalition of Women for Peace's Tel Aviv office at 972-50-857-5728 or visit their website www.whoprofits.org

Melinda Tuhus is producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 45 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending Feb. 9, 2009. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Melinda Tuhus and Anna Manzo.


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