The Calves’ Rebellion

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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A Palestinian herds cattle and sheep in Jordan Valley, the eastern-most part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank that borders Jordan June 26, 2019.
A Palestinian herds cattle and sheep in Jordan Valley, the eastern-most part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank that borders Jordan June 26, 2019. Credit: \ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The nation of high-tech and (according to foreign reports) nuclear bombs is once again threatened by a malicious, anti-Semitic plot — a Palestinian boycott on purchasing calves from Israel. If only it were a Palestinian vegetarian intifada, but no. It’s a decision made in September by the Palestinian Authority to stop buying 120,000 head of cattle a year from Israel, which account for 60 percent of the beef consumed in the Palestinian enclaves of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The PA is searching for and encouraging its ranchers and traders to find alternatives. Oy gevalt!

The coordinator of government activities in the territories, Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rokon, of course rushed in to help. Last week he warned that “Israel will not allow boycotts of any kind against Israeli produce.”

The proud Zionist response is, as usual, a threat of collective revenge. “If the status quo is not restored, Israel will not permit most Palestinian agricultural products into Israel,” said a message sent by COGAT at 8:43 P.M. Saturday. The message’s unusual timing shows its importance to the Israeli authorities. Let’s hope no one had to violate Shabbat for it.

Two days before Abu Rokon’s threat, dozens of Israeli farmers from around the country drove in a convoy to the prime minister’s home in Jerusalem. The event was reported on the Hebrew website The trucks and pickups carried ominous signs: “BDS, an economic war funded by Israel’s government.” A trade war against Israeli ranchers, a unilateral measure, border closures of crossings: these and other terms obviously inspired the threatening tone of the coordinator’s message, falsely implying that the PA is a political entity equal to Israel, and that up to now only goodwill and reciprocity have characterized their economic relations.

The Palestinian move will affect 500 Israeli families, said the report. Among the many people it quoted was Avshalom Vilan, the secretary-general of the Israel Farmers Federation and a former Meretz MK. The Paris Protocol must be respected, said the (former?) socialist, one of the founders of Peace Now, who claimed that the Palestinian decision was the result of “a struggle between merchants and politicians within the PA, with corruption and shady deals on the Palestinian side.” No less.

25 years after the Oslo Accords and the Protocol on Economic Relations were signed – temporary agreements, whose provisions Israel maintains or ignores, as it sees fit – the Palestinian economy is in decline. Tariffs and base prices are the same, despite the average Palestinian salary being below minimum wage in Israel.

Israel robs Palestinians of their water, selling it back to them at full price while also imposing quotas. Under the pretext of security it restricts Palestinian exports and prevents imports of materials that are vital to advanced technologies and the Palestinian health care system. It complicates private imports and restricts the movement of goods and people, preventing development and access to resources in around 60 percent of the area – and this is just a fraction of the list.

The Palestinian government’s announcement about the calves says nothing about an “economic boycott,” but it is connected to the PA’s decision to gradually disengage from the occupation economy.

Internal Palestinian criticism was not long in appearing: Palestinian dependence on Israel is so great that these are but empty declarations, said economists; the decision to stop buying calves was designed to benefit the Palestinian monopolies, which can import the animals from abroad, said social activists. The issue was not studied thoroughly, said others.

The threats of the coordinator, backed by the pressure exerted by cattle growers, could counter some of this criticism. The Israeli economy will not suffer, but it turns out that some branches are dependent on Palestinian consumer habits. The government of Mohammed Shtayyeh has a chance of using this for political leverage, and this is fully within the rights of a nation that is struggling against a foreign, hostile and cruel regime.

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