On this anniversary of Israel’s Declaration of Independence, you’re likely to encounter no end of negativity - grousing from the boiling blood extremists, grumbling from heartbroken moderates, resignation from those whose dreams have been dashed and trashed and ground into sand, year after soul-crushing year. Not a small group. A group which often includes me.
But not this year. Not me. This year, for Israel Independence Day, I’m buying Palestinian.
When I can, where I can, at the most direct level I can find, I’m working on trade ties. Seeking out matchless blood oranges and madjool dates from Jericho, taking home the superb tahini from Nablus, taking my business to the Palestinians of East Jerusalem, supporting the new entrepreneurs and small manufactures and merchants of Jenin and Ramallah.
We are cousins in more than just Biblical lore. Pardon my Semitism, but we share something in the blood, the Palestinians and the Jews, a zest for the mercantile. And I say this solely in praise and in recognition that in that quest which so often stymies politicians and soldiers and clerics and professors - the basic human need for a modicum of peace- business people often find a way.
I have friends whose politics are of the hardboiled variety, and who, at times like this, issue reminders via social media to the effect that we live in a rough neighborhood. Which is their polite way of addressing their friends who hold out hope of coexistence between Jew and Palestinian, and telling them, gently but firmly: You can shut up now.
I want to thank my hardboiled friends for altering my point of view. Do we, as they say, live in a rough neighborhood? We do. And, being part of that neighborhood, and part of that roughness, I’m thinking that I’ve been going about a lot of my neighborliness all wrong.
Fact of the matter is I haven’t been much of a neighbor at all. Not that this is unusual around here. But it’s also no excuse for an excuse.
I am new to this. But the more I look, the more I see the opportunities for supporting Palestinian business. My wife, looking for baharat in the Caravan Minimarket in Abu Ghosh, found grains and spices produced in A-Ram, a suburb of Ramallah.
Of late, Palestinians who have been doing business with Israelis for generations, family-owned West Bank Palestinian companies who only want to expand their sales to Israelis, have faced mounting bureaucratic obstacles from Israeli officials. The result, Bank of Israel figures show: a significant drop in 2011 in West Bank exports to Israel and to other nations via Israel.
You might ask, why should Israelis, or for that matter, Israeli-minded Jews abroad, buy Palestinian-made products rather than goods from Israeli firms. One answer is that many of the best known Israeli products are no longer, in real terms, Israeli.
Take Israel’s largest manufacturer and distributor of food, Tnuva. Once a pre-state agricultural cooperative – and subject of nursery rhymes - that built early Israel with its ties to social-democracy and collective and family farms, Tnuva is now owned by a London-based “independent global partnership,” which managed to buy Tnuva even though its bid for the firm was only the third highest, and though the purchase, in the words of owner Apax Partners, “necessitated a change in the law and the introduction of new tax codes.”
Apax Partners needs no one’s help. A cartoon of a conglomerate, it has helped Tnuva’s final transition from agent of social justice to its best-known enemy.
Family businesses in the neighborhood, however, offer and need help wherever the neighborhood may be. Help them stay in business. Let the bureaucrats worry about Tnuva and Tshuva and Nochi.
This year, this Independence Day, do yourself a favor. Buy Palestinian.
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