Avoiding West Bank Settlement Goods Isn't Boycott - It’s the Law

According to int’l law - by which the State of Israel was established and recognized - the settlements are stolen lands, which is a war crime, and abetting war criminals, such as by financing them, is a crime, too.

B. Michael
B. Michael
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An Israeli flag is seen in front of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim.
An Israeli flag is seen in front of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim.Credit: AP
B. Michael
B. Michael

The boycott issue is once again in the headlines, and I wish to make a confession: I don’t buy products made in the settlements. This isn’t, heaven forbid, a boycott, and it obviously isn’t a call to others to boycott. It’s forbidden to boycott. There’s a law. And I’m a law-abiding citizen. Always. Even when I don’t like the laws.

And that’s precisely why I don’t buy products made over the Green Line: the law. Because in my view, international law is also law. And it, too, deserves to be obeyed, even if only because international law is the law by dint of which Israel was established and recognized as a state.

And according to international law – how very unfortunate – all settlements, from the first to the last, are a war crime. This is so according to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and also according to Article 8(2)(b)(viii) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Admittedly, the State of Israel has displayed an impressive ability to create legal nuances out of nothing to prove that international law doesn’t apply to the occupied territories, or that the territories aren’t occupied at all, or that the world is flat. But there’s not a single country in the entire world, or a single organization of all those responsible for upholding international law, that buys Israel’s legalistic sophistries.

Take, for instance, Israel’s claim that this isn’t “occupied territory.” Why? Because the territories “had no sovereign” when we conquered them. But Israel only invites ridicule with this hollow claim. The authorized agencies have declared again and again that this is an occupation in every respect, and that the question of who was previously sovereign in the occupied territory, or whether it had a sovereign at all, is completely irrelevant. “Occupied territory” is defined by law as follows: territory that was seized by military force and is held under military rule. Period.

And not only is transferring an occupying population into occupied territory (“the settlements”) a war crime, but expropriating occupied lands without an acceptable justification – for instance, expropriation for settlement purposes – is also defined as a war crime. Such lands, which were taken from their owners in violation of the law, are simply stolen property.

Consequently, it’s self-evident that anything produced on them by the thieves, whether industrial or agricultural produce, is presumed to be stolen goods. And a law-abiding person doesn’t buy stolen goods. It’s forbidden. A well-known aphorism admittedly holds that “one who steals from a thief isn’t liable,” but there’s no doubt that “one who buys from a thief is liable.”

Moreover, the money paid for stolen goods encourages and finances the criminals. And this, too, is forbidden. Article 25(3)(c) of the Rome Statute assigns criminal liability to anyone who abets war criminals in any way, including by encouraging or financing them.

What can you do? I don’t want to run afoul of international law. Don’t I have enough troubles? So I don’t buy.

All of the above, it’s important to stress once again, has nothing to do with boycotting! Only with obeying the law. And in order to help people obey this law, it’s also necessary to demand that all products of the settlements sold in Israel be immediately labeled, very clearly, so as not to put a stumbling block before the blind and not to embroil them, heaven forbid, in abetting war crimes.

In closing, one small clarification: As many will doubtless recall, in upholding the so-called “Boycott Law,” Supreme Court Justice Elyakim Rubinstein relied on a phrase from the Passover Haggadah, “In every generation they rise up to destroy us.” I wonder what the honored judge would permit if he continued reading the Haggadah and came to the words, “Pour out Your wrath upon the nations that do not acknowledge You ... Pursue them with anger and destroy them from beneath the heavens of the Lord.”

If the honored judge indeed permits what I fear he would permit I’d like to make it clear right now: On this issue, don’t count on me. Because even when it comes to obeying the law, there are limits.

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