Activists urge boycott over Israeli occupation of Palestinian land

There is growing anti-Israeli feeling in Europe, with calls on EU and US governments to stop ignoring the occupation of Palestinian land. And though politicians remain silent, activists rally to draw attention to the plight of the Palestinian people.

In a day of rage against Israel, thousands call for the boycott of Israeli goods, over its continued expansion on Palestinian land.

A Jewish demonstrator says enough is enough: “American leaders do nothing, the EU does nothing, though repeated UN resolutions have ruled Israeli settlements illegal.”

Activists want the European Union to bar the main exports of the occupied territories – flowers and fruit. They have formed human barricades at EU supply depots, stopping goods getting through.

“Israel’s Carmel brand markets settlement produce and pockets the profit. But occupying forces who move in their citizens are committing war crimes, under the Geneva Convention,” says activist Jerome Peraya.

Public pressure is bearing fruit. Italy’s biggest grocer Coop has banned food grown in the occupied territories. The world’s largest security firm G4S has stopped work with Israeli checkpoints on the West Bank, admitting it breached human rights. Shareholders forced Belgium’s Dexia Bank to sell its Israel arm over million-euro loans to settlements.

Activists’ next target is the firm laying rail links between settlements and Jerusalem – EU transport giant Veolia.

Protestors are also seeking to file charges under international law against Israel over its construction of settlements, which the authorities are investigating.

Belgian police will pass these complaints to the courts. Judges are to rule if firms who buy food grown on occupied Palestinian land are complicit in war crimes.

Irish MEP Paul Murphy will join the Gaza flotilla, the biggest yet, to raise awareness of the situation.

Nine activists were killed by Israeli commandos when a similar operation was stopped in international waters last year. Murphy feels things have got so bad that he is ready to risk his life.

“Hopefully people aren’t killed, as they were last time, by the Israeli military forces, but that it brings the world’s attention to this issue,” he said.

The last time such a campaign was mobilized internationally was against the South African apartheid regime. Such moves, say experts, force politicians and business to act.

“The public opinion changed their mind. Before they were thinking Israel was aggressed by the Palestinian. Today public opinion has a real capacity to challenge and the international institution, the European institutions and the UN, and also the big companies,” says former Belgian senator Pierre Garland.

Israel may have powerful allies, but opposition in Europe to its policies is growing too.