Israeli dates boycott campaign launched in US
(CHICAGO 07/17/2012) – The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), a national grassroots organization, has called a press conference for Wednesday, July 18, at the office of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago to announce a nationwide boycott of dates grown in Israeli settlements. The boycott call comes just before the July 20 beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting from sunrise to sunset.
“Muslims typically break their fasts in Ramadan by eating dates and drinking water,” said Mr. Awad Hamdan, AMP national programs director. “Unfortunately, many Muslims unknowingly use Israeli dates, most of which are grown in Israeli settlements built illegally on Palestinian land.”
The settlements are one result of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The settlements, their buffer zones prohibited to Palestinians, and Jewish-only roads have consumed nearly 50 percent of the West Bank. In addition, Israel controls the only aquifer in the West Bank, appropriating the majority of the water supply for settlers and their farms.
Dozens of Arab- and Muslim-owned grocery stores in nearly a dozen cities across the US have pledged to boycott Israeli occupation dates. AMP chapters in Sacramento, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago, New York, New Jersey and the Washington DC area are participating, as are volunteer groups in Philadelphia. While the first phase of the boycott is targeting ethnic grocers and the Muslim community, the boycott eventually will be widened to include the general public and major chain retailers, Hamdan added.
“AMP is asking everyone to refuse to buy dates marketed by Hadiklaim under the names of Jordan River, Jordan River Bio-Tops and King Solomon,” Hamdan said. “Instead, people can support the American economy by purchasing dates produced in California and Arizona.”
The national campaign, “This Ramadan Make a Date with Justice: Choose Occupation-Free Dates,” answers the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel as means to peacefully pressure Israel to abide by international law and end its occupation of Palestine; allow Palestinians refugees the right to return to their homeland; and to secure equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel.
“Most of the Israeli companies that export to the U.S. and the West are built in the West Bank. They’re built on stolen confiscated land,” said Jamil Morrar, owner of the Red Sea Food Market & Halal Meat in Sacramento, one of the stores participating in the boycott. “Honestly, anyone who buys Israeli products is supporting the Israeli occupation and it is against our policy to sell those products.”
In the United States, dates are grown in California and Arizona, which together produced about 28,000 tons in 2011, according to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center. However, a vast amount of dates are imported into the U.S. as well. Israel produces more than half the world’s premier date, the Medjool; and Israeli exports to the United States were valued at $51 million in 2011, according to the USDA.
A 2006 investigative report by Israeli newspaper Haaretz exposed many of these unfair labor practices, which include leaving workers, including children, on the tops of date palm trees in the grueling sun for up to nine hours, in some cases, at a stretch with no breaks.
Palestinian workers are paid less than their Israeli counterparts, in violation of Israeli law. In addition, Palestinian child laborers are also subject to exploitation in the settlements. In 2008, the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics found that more than 7,000 children between 5 and 17 years of age were working in the Jordan Valley alone, according to an AMP report.
AMP’s boycott is a response to the Palestinian civil society 2005 call for boycott, divestment and sanctions. It comes on the heels of two other recent successful boycott and divestment efforts: Last month, pension fund giant TIAA CREF divested its Social Choice Fund of nearly $73 million in Caterpillar stock following the corporation’s removal from the Morgan Stanley Capital Investment (MSCI) list of socially responsible companies. MSCI cited Caterpillar’s involvement in the Israeli occupation as a factor in its removal. TIAA-CREF has been the target of the national “We Divest Campaign” led by a coalition including Jewish Voice for Peace, the American Friends Service Committee, Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Shortly thereafter, on July 5, the Presbyterian Church USA’s general assembly voted to boycott products produced in Israeli settlements, mentioning by name the very dates AMP is calling the Muslim community to boycott: Hadiklaim dates. The church also named Ahava beauty projects, the target of a long-standing international campaign spearheaded by another activist group, CodePink.
The press conference will take place at 11 a.m. Wednesday, July 18, at the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago office at 213 S. State St. Chicago. A nationwide Twitter campaign with the hashtag #JusticeDates will also take place on Wednesday. Several national groups, including the United States Palestinian Community Network, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, endorse the boycott.
For more information, please contact Kristin Szremski, AMP director of media and communications at 708.717.4180 or go to www.ampalestine.org/justicedates
The American Muslims for Palestine is a national, grassroots organization, whose mission is to educate the American public about issues related to Palestine and its rich cultural and historical heritage. For more information, go to www.ampalestine.org.