Monday, February 12, 2007

Block-aid report: Carmel-Agrexco

In a continuing series aimed at ending occupation of Palestinian territory, Activists blockaded Israeli agri-giant Agrexco-Carmel.

Not against Israelis, against Occupation
As we've said before on Contemporary Anarchist, this type of action is not intended to inflict long-term problems onto the Israeli populace, but is meant to highlight how the Israeli Govt and corporations invest in businesses operating on occupied (forcibly annexed) land and at the expense of Palestinian farmers, inhabitants and workers in the Jordan Valley.

Since this sort of action targets the businesses directly, and not the entire people of Israel, it is considered one of the more effective ways of bringing pressure from below onto the government to end the occupation.

Condensed report from IndyMedia and Labournet
On Saturday 10th Feburary, over 100 hundred protesters gathered outside Israeli company Carmel-Agrexco's UK headquarters in Hayes, Middlesex, in a mass picket of the depot, joined by the newly formed 'Jewish Boycott of Israeli Goods' (J-BIG). Protesters blocked both the entrance and the exists, whilst Supporters waved Palestinian flags, and displayed a coffin covered with 'Carmel flowers'. An Indymedia reporter told how at least 2 delivery lorries had been turned away between 1pm and 2:30pm. The reporter also mentioned that Police had been stop-and-searching people randomly, along with a half-hearted and unsuccessful attempt to coral people into pens. Apparently, one activist was trying to report to the IndyMedia reporter on the phone but police apparently tried to confiscate his phone: "A muffled voice said: "what law are you using here?..." Then it was cut off". A report at 15:15pm, told how the blockade at the depot was still being maintained.

The next day, Sunday 11th February, saw the second day of action against Carmel-agrexco's import of Valentine's Day flowers to an unsuspecting British Public. At 8:36am, came another press release, as the blockaid action entered it's second day against Carmel-Agrexco's import of of Israeli flowers during the build up to Valentine's Day., with 13 Palestine solidarity protesters from London and Brighton. The NVDA of Activists on Saturday meant that deliveries had to be rescheduled, and so early morning on Sunday, activists locked themselves once more to the entrance and exit gates of the Carmel-Agrexco depot in Hayes. Indymedia reported that private security guards from First Class Protection had been called in, to meet the renewed effort with violent force, however, at 8:30am, the blockade was still managing to stop all motor vehicle traffic in and out of the building for several hours. Three protestors were arrested, but later released on bail.

Charlie Pottins' article on boycott tactics is worth a read and he reminds us of other economic blockades:
ONE thing I've noticed in arguments about boycott tactics is how more effective the other side - governments and big companies -are, compared with us amateurs. I mean they don't have to worry about having resolutions adopted by union conferences (and then rescinded by recall conferences), nor about union members incurring penalties under anti-union legislation such as Britain's Labour government has inherited and kept unchanged from Tory times.

As for pickets, fair play to those who protested outside Carmel Agrexco's UK depot at the weekend, but it's not like having an army checkpoint blocking the road all week. Even if they arouse more outrage.

Still, to help get a bigger picture, I'm turning away from Israel's conflict with the Palestinians to look at another battlefront. One that's seldom in headlines here, but has been part of the political landscape for almost half a century. That's how long the plucky little United States has been standing up to the might of Cuba, by waging an economic blockade as well as backing right-wing terrorists.

In January 2007, Ruth Tenne explains in the The Socialist Review:
As an Israeli-born citizen, why do I support sanctions against my own country? I believe that the lack of concerted action by Western governments calls for the exercise of genuine pressure on the Israeli state, as expressed movingly by Dr Jeff Halper, co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House demolitions: "sanctions, divestment and boycotting are absolutely legitimate means at everyone's disposal for effectively opposing injustice... they are directed at ending a situation of intolerable conflict, suffering and moral wrong-doing... When injustice ends, the sanction ends" .

In this spirit, a number of Israeli and Jewish activists in London recently launched a group affiliated to the BIG campaign which "calls upon fellow Jews to rethink their unconditional support for the State of Israel and calls upon every ethical consumer to refuse to support the Israeli economy as long as the illegal occupation of Palestine persists". The group, JBIG, (of which I am a member) hopes to link up with similar Jewish groups in Israel and Britain in order to establish a network which will confront Israel from within the Jewish community - thus defying the charge of anti-Semitism which is often hurled at those who dare to criticise Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

BACKGROUND: Carmel-Agrexco is 50% owned by the state of Israel, and imports produce from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. At the same time Israeli forces have blocked Palestinian exports on grounds of ‘security’.

In the UK Agrexco is known under the Carmel, Coral and Jaffa brands. The UK is the most important foreign market for Israeli fresh produce. Agrexco exports a wide range of produce to the UK including peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, herbs, spices, flowers and avocadoes.

Agrexco is the largest exporter of settlement produce for sale overseas. Much of this produce comes from illegal colonies in the Jordan Valley. Carmel Agrexco have had dealings with the colonies of Tomer, Mehola, Hamra, Ro'i, Massua, Patzael, Mekhora, Netiv Ha-Gdud and Bet Ha-Arava.

Israeli state sponsored settlements have appropriated land and water resources by military force from Palestinian farmers in a deliberate policy of colonial settlement.

Before taking part in this action many of the defendants had witnessed first hand the suffering of Palestinian communities under the brutal Israeli occupation. They do not accept the UK's complicity in the illegal occupation of Palestine and see the presence of this company as a violation of human rights.

In a hearing in September the judge ruled that Agrexco (UK) must prove that their business is lawful.

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