This week in my conversation classes I used class time to discuss the boycott of Israeli products. One of the readings in the textbook is about “price and value” so I introduced into the discussion what one thinks about when one goes shopping. Very few, if any, of my students ask shopkeepers about where products come from (when unmarked). All of my students are aware that Israeli products cost more than Palestinian products, and somehow this gets equated with better quality. I know that this is some sort of universal phenomenon–the notion that something that costs more is better–but I always wonder, why? Here it is especially curious given that with respect to food, in particular, Palestinians do not use carcinogenic chemicals, or GMOs, or preservatives in their food. Their food is fresher, healthier, better tasting. In fact, my office mate told me that Palestinians who work for Israelis are often requested by their employers to purchase produce for them in Palestine because they know this to be true, too. And yet Palestinians do not seem to have faith in the quality of their own products. I turned this into a discussion of internalized colonialism, a la Frantz Fanon, in order to ask students where they get this idea that Israeli products are superior to Palestinian versions of the same items.
I asked them to think about a particular scenario. I said: given that Israelis steal food (in addition to land, people, culture, water), consider for example the way they have stolen felafel and told the world somehow this is their invention, which of course is impossible for all sorts of geographical, cultural, and historical reasons; what would happen if tomorrow Israelis decided that they invented knafe (see photo at top of post) and came to Nablus to market it at a higher price. Would Nabulsis begin to go to the Israeli produced knafe shops and abandon the historic, original, Nabulsi knafe shops? And you know what? Every single one of my students said, yes, people would do this. They would go to the Israeli knafe shop. This is precisely how damaging, dangerous, and infested colonialism is in the minds of Palestinians if this is indeed the case. I think that creating a play with this sort of scenario as its focus would be an important wake up call for people to consider what their everyday purchases mean. Because, as one of my students put it, buying their products “is just like putting a gun to your head because you are paying for the bullets yourself.” Indeed.
There are so many reasons to boycott Israeli products: because Palestinian products are made of higher quality, because Palestinian products are cheaper, because Palestinian products support Palestinian families and communities, and the list could go on and on. It’s true it is more difficult to boycott here, but the things in life that are difficult are those worth fighting for. Of course one could also step outside of the economic issues to think about boycott in order to resist the wanton murder and destruction that the Israeli Terrorist Forces (ITF) unleash on civilian populations every day and night. I posted one item earlier this morning about the ITF invading Nablus and murdering Palestinians last night. Here is another case of ITF murder of my comrade and colleague’s mother. He has a website honoring his mother’s, Shaden Abu Hijleh, murder on October 11, 2002. There is also a film detailing the precise facts of her murder by the ITF that he just uploaded to a website that you can watch by clicking here.
Two must read articles for today: Ali Abu Nimah’s A new Palestinian strategy or the same failed one?
PS: Whoever placed a bag of a lovely iftar dinner on my front door last night: shukran gedan! Yet one more instance of beautiful generosity that seems to be heightened during the month of Ramadan.