Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat decides to hold the first Jerusalem International Marathon in March 2011. He gets Adidas to sponsor the event. An Israeli runner registers and then discovers that the route runs through some of the most egregious examples of discrimination and dispossession in East Jerusalem: Sheikh Jarrah, Issawiya, the Shufat Refugee Camp, Jabel Mukaber and Sur Baher (see map on right.)
He approaches the Meretz representatives on the Jerusalem city council and they, with international human rights organizations, approach Adidas. Adidas smells a possible consumer boycott and gets cold feet. The company demands “clarifications” from the Jerusalem municipality. What does that mean? Time (and persistence) will tell.
Yosi Eli, Maariv, December 10 2010 [Hebrew original here and at the bottom of this post]
The sports giant Adidas, which is sponsoring the Jerusalem International Marathon, requested clarifications from the Jerusalem Municipality about the manner in which the event would be conducted [sic]. Sources in the company [say they] are even considering withdrawing the sponsorship because of fears of a consumer boycott, after it became clear that the route also runs through neighborhoods beyond the Green Line.
The company’s communication with the Jerusalem Municipality follows a series of protests it received from human rights organizations across the world, demanding that the company cancel its sponsorship of the marathon, which is scheduled for March 2011.
UPDATE: August 31 2010 — Eli Clifton provides some important context.
This is a fairly wide-raging, if shallow, review. I found the section the section describing a botched attempt by an Israeli company to re-export Iranian marble to the US interesting. Particularly insightful was the justification for an Israeli double standard on this issue, as articulated by Danny Catarivas, head of the Division of Foreign Trade and International Relations in the Manufacturers Association of Israel (emphasis mine):
Economic threats are a mainstay of the Obama agenda and fuel the flames between the two countries after every statement on the issue.
The Israeli order banning trade, on the other hand, is not visible. “There’s an advantage to size in this case,” says Catarivas.”The Americans can afford to do things that others can’t.” Catarivas explains that as a small country dependent on foreign trade, Israel needs to separate politics and economics and refrain from economic boycotts. “In the same way that we are outraged against attempts to boycott us , we’re the last ones that should support boycotts of any kind,” he adds.
So until Israeli floors bring about a peace agreement with our neighbors in Tehran, the decision on whether to buy products manufactured in enemy countries is a private one to make. Alternatively, it is up to the quality of camouflage and the creativity of the importer, since Iranian marble is just one example from among dozens of products manufactured in enemy countries and available in the Israeli market.
Noa Oron, Maariv Friday Business Supplement [page 8; Hebrew original here], August 27 2010
The exquisite lobby of Bank Leumi’s management building on Yehuda Halevy Street in Tel Aviv accentuates the contrast between the ancient and pastoral nature of the restored Mani House, and the modern pace of life. Perspiring men in button-down shirts walk quickly past the 1930s-style porch, and conversations on mobile phones reverberate in the impressive space. Heels click on the gleaming marble, and one after another the senior bank officials enter and go up to their offices, which overlook the Tel Aviv cityscape.
It is interesting to consider what the late judge Malkiel Mani would say, if he knew that the directors of the bank—the shares of which are still held by the state—were scurrying about on marble that was quarried in Iran.
Bank Leumi was among the first in Israel to purchase the Iranian Gohare stone, which is named after the ancient city of Gohar-Tappeh in Iran, and quarried mainly in Isfahan, in central Iran. The marble stone, the hues of which combine beige and gray, became popular among Israeli architects, and was soon purchased by many traders in Israel, along with other Iranian marble stone.
But how did marble reach Israel from Iran, a state with which trade is barred by law? Through the ultimate transit station — Turkey. The stone slabs arrive in containers marked “Made in Turkey,” accompanied by Turkish documents, and easily pass through customs agents at the ports. This is only one of the methods for camouflaging the country of production, for goods coming from countries with which Israel does not have trade relations. This does not refer only to marble: Other products also make their way to Israel in a similar fashion, including textile, carpets, candy and of course pistachios.
The order banning trade with the enemy defines Lebanon, Syria and Iran as states with which trade is forbidden. Nevertheless, trade with them takes place on a regular basis, indirectly, through third parties. Whether it is because of globalization, the drive to develop the Israeli economy, or just because it sells, certain goods from enemy countries are prevalent in the Israeli market. How much difference does this make to the Israeli economy, to the Americans or to Ahmadinejad’s pocket?
Means of camouflage
When architect Miri Kaiser presented the directors of Bank Leumi with the plans for the new management building, about ten years ago, importing thousands of square meters of Iranian Gohare stone was a minor detail on the way to the dream office. Members of the bank’s planning team chose the stone with Kaiser’s assistance and also traveled with her to Greece, where the Gohare slabs were chosen carefully. At that time, the Gohare blocks were shipped to the city of Drama, Greece, where the cutting and finishing of the marble slabs was done. From Greece, the marble was transferred to Israel, and it is currently imported through Turkey. The name “Drama,” incidentally, became a common name for Gohare among the Israeli traders.
Bank Leumi sources said that none of the current bank employees had any knowledge of the fact that the origin of the stone was in Iran. Moreover, the paperwork related to the construction of the management building states explicitly that the stone is Greek stone, without any mention or hint of the fact that the stone is of different origin. An explanation for such registration could be the cutting stage in the marble production process, so that at times the country in which the marble is cut is ultimately registered as its country of origin. The explanation could be that the country where the stone was cut is sometimes labeled as the country of origin. Another possibility is that Greek containers were used to import the stone, prompting Israeli Customs to mark the the marble as originating in Greece, which is what happens today with Gohare imported through Turkey. In any case, according to informed sources, the architect and importer both knew that the the Gohare had been quarried in Iran. But who has time for patriotism when a multi-million project is at stake?
Bank Leumi is not alone. Hundreds of public buildings and residential buildings in Israel shine thanks to Iranian marble. In the Avenue conference room of the Airport City project, you can see 2,000 square meters of Gohare; several luxury buildings in northern Tel Aviv boast lobbies courtesy of Khamenei; and even the Pivko building in Tel Aviv, the huge spaceship that can be seen from the Ayalon Highway, displays several hundred square meters of marble from Iran.
The Gohare is also not alone in the fray. Graphite, onyx and other types of marble are imported from Iran. However, the Gohare is quarried only in Iran and is unique for its relatively low price and popularity among Israeli architects—a winning formula for marble importers and traders.
“I call the Iranians from here and speak to them directly on their mobile phones,” a salesman explains in a north Tel Aviv flooring shop. Most sales personnel are not embarrassed to say that this is stone that originates in Iran, sometimes immediately when it is shown to you, and sometimes after you ask. “I am not always eager to say where everything came from,” the salesman qualifies, “but it doesn’t matter. People also have a problem with Turkey. You simply can’t mix politics with this.”
Since it is indeed preferable to avoid a political debate — after all, we are talking about floors — the marble marketers will use a variety of “means of camouflage.” In order to leave the stones nameless (and mainly so that we will not be able to compare prices), the marble companies give the stones original names that are the fruit of their imagination. “Gray Steel” is one of the names given to the Gohare, for example. Other traders will say that this is Turkish stone or “imported from Persia.” If you catch the salesman in a friendly moment, you may be able to extract the information from him. “I’ll tell you a secret,” one saleswoman whispers, “the Turks import from the Iranians, but let’s not make a big deal of it.”
Statistics provided by the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce show that marble imports to Israel have increased over the past three years, and marble imported from Turkey constitute over 60% of the imports. The scope of marble imports from Turkey in these years stood at over USD 22 million per year, on the average. It is impossible to know what percentage of marble originated in Iran, but in light of the popularity of the Gohare stone and other Iranian stones, we can presume that it is a considerable share. But the most troubling fact was supplied by a senior source in the marble sector: 90% of Gohare stone in Iran is owned by the Iranian government — meaning that the Iranian government is clipping the coupon from the trade with Israel.
“The question is what economic damage is being caused to the Israeli industry,” explains Danny Catarivas, head of the Division of Foreign Trade and International Relations in the Manufacturers Association of Israel. “In any case, I don’t think that the Iranian economy depends on its marble exports, and if they don’t sell the marble to Israel they will sell it to someone else.” Catarivas says that in order to continue to maintain a stable economy that is part of the globalization trend, [Israel] has to balance between bureaucracy and regulation to the free market: “I hope that the Israeli government can find the balance. All in all, I don’t see the Israeli market being flooded by goods from enemy countries.”
“Whoever imports from Iran is a traitor and the State of Israel should make every effort to track down and stop these imports,” Oded Tira, former president of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, says angrily. Tira is opposed to the approach that the business end justifies the means, and says that globalization serves as an excuse for trade relations with enemy countries. “Even if the imports help us improve our own economy, I would sacrifice this in favor of pressure on the economy of the enemy states,” he explains. “There should be a moral demand from people not to try to deceive the state, thereby strengthening the enemy.” He says that giving up solidarity for the sake of business is dangerous, even if the sums involved are small: “Perhaps the tax that the Israeli trader pays will enable the Iranian government to buy the last fuse that it needs to complete the nuclear bomb. This is an outrage.”
Finance Ministry officials said that no permit had been given to import stones from Iran. Therefore, if imports were carried out, these importers risk breaking Israeli law. Moreover, due to the international sensitivity and the sanctions on Iran, there is serious concern that additional laws were broken.
From Israel with love
Us sanctions on Iran have caused increased vigilance in imposing a ban on Iranian imports. As tension mounted between the two countries, our friend in the West banned all commercial ties with Iran in 1997, but the phenomenon of indirect imports via third countries is evident. US Customs is strict and assertive on this issue, but also faces the same difficulty as Israeli Customs in identifying goods that are not labeled as made in Iran.
The office of the US Trade Attaché told Maariv Business that import from Iran to the Us have been in decline since 2007. Imports decreased by 41% between 2007 and 2008 and by 34% between 2008 and 2009. To date, about $35 million of Iranian goods have been transferred to the US in 201o, a a decrease of 48% compared to the previous year, but the year has still not ended.
In any case, when Israel is the one exporting Iranian marble to the Americans it becomes an embarrassing story. About two years ago, the Israeli company Bastones [spelling uncertain] sold two containers of Iranian Gohare marble to the US company Ann Sacks , which specializes in high-end interior design. Bastones promised that the stone was Turkish, in the same way that many traders in Israeli promise their local clients. The two containers full of Gohare made their way from the Mediterranean to the Western giant, but on the way they encountered a “storm” of a type one does not usually encounter at sea.
Ann Sacks’s management became suspicious that the marble was Iranian and started questioning Bastones’ exporters.After a few interrogations and a lot of stuttering Bastones confessed to the Americans that marble was indeed quarried in the Iranian mountains. Ann Sacks immediately cancelled the the deal and the containers made a rapid u-turn back to Israel. Bastones suffered losses, but it appears that it sold the stone in Israel. The Kohler corporation, Ann Sacks’s owner, refused to comment for this story.
Daniel Bettini, Navit Zumer and Ofer Petersburg, Yediot, August 25 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
The decision made on Monday by the Norwegian oil fund to divest from Africa Israel and Danya Cebus on the grounds that they are involved in illegal construction in the territories, is only the latest in a long series of decisions by governmental and private companies in Europe to boycott Israeli companies for political reasons.
In most cases, the argument is that the products were manufactured over the Green Line, and are therefore in the “occupied territories.” At times, this refers to a political protest against Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians, for example, in response to the flotilla events. One thing is not in question: In recent months, there has been an escalation in the boycott of Israeli brands for political reasons.
“Since the Palestinians announced a boycott on products from the territories, I have had a 40% drop in production in recent months,” said yesterday Avi Ben-Zvi, owner of Plastco, a glass plant in Ariel, “exports to Europe have completely stopped, and traders in the territories have stopped working with us. The damage is huge.”
Ariel Mayor Ron Nahman said that this was causing great damage to the factories in the area: “Large-scale governmental action should be taken in order to go to the boycotting countries and threaten that they will not be partners to the peace process.”
Norway’s decision from Monday was preceded in March 2010 by the decision of a large Swedish pension fund to boycott Elbit Systems, an Israeli company, due to its part in building the separation fence. The fund announced that it had sold its holdings in Elbit following a recommendation of the fund’s ethics committee not to invest in shares of companies that are involved in violating international conventions.
Elbit also suffered from a boycott beforehand: the Government Pension Fund of Norway announced last September that it would stop investing in Elbit due to its part in building the fence. At the end of last May, the Deutsche Bank announced that it had sold all of its shares in Elbit, apparently after heavy pressure that was applied to the bank’s management by representatives of anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian organizations.
Two years ago, the Swedish giant Assa Abloy, owner of the Israeli Multi-Lock, apologized for operating its factory in the Barkan Industrial Zone, Beyond the Green Line. The company promised to move the factory “into Israel” following pressure from a Swedish human rights organization.
Chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Israel Shraga Brosh said yesterday that “from time to time, various bodies, mainly Scandinavian, boycott one company or another from Israel. In the end, these are pinpointed events that do not affect trade with Israel as a whole.”
Soda Club has also been hit by the boycott: After receiving threats by pro-Palestinian groups, the Paris Municipality was forced to deny that the Israeli company was participating in a large fair promoting the us of tap water.
In July 2009 it became known that the French transport company Veolia, operator of the the Jerusalem light rail, decided to sell its hares in the project. Veolia did not cite the reason for the sale, but a hint may be found in the agreement of a French court a few months earlier to hear a petition against Veolia for building parts of the line inside East Jerusalem, in order to connect Jewish neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city with the west.
Africa Israel stated: “Africa Israel and its subsidiaries have not been involved for quite some time in real estate development or residential construction in the West Bank. Therefore, the allegations are groundless.”
[Headline] European Parliament: “Phenomenon of boycotts against Israel gaining momentum”
[Sub-headline] Members of the European lobby for Israel warn: The deterioration in the political climate is increasing boycotts of Israeli products, companies and businessmen; requested that Peres utilize his stature and appear before the European Parliament
David Lipkin, Maariv, June 28 2010 [page 4 of business section; Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
The leaders of European Friends of Israel (EFI), the European lobby for Israel and its economy, warned yesterday of a deterioration in the political climate in Europe against Israel, and an increase in the phenomenon of boycotts of Israeli products and businesspeople throughout Europe. They noted that there was a growing phenomenon of European investment funds that were divesting from Israeli companies, for reasons defined as “business ethics.”
Ronny Bruckner, leader of the lobby, which includes members of Parliament in the European Union and senior European businesspeople, asked President Shimon Peres yesterday to use his unique international standing and appear before the European Parliament. Bruckner also asked the president to step up his activity vis-à-vis the EU institutions and to invest in smaller European states, which have recently joined the EU.
Bruckner noted that the significantly expanding Arab population in the large European countries might help Muslim bodies join radical coalitions and boycott products from Israel, not only those produced east of the Green Line. He said that Arab activists have already taken to harassing Israeli businessmen and that recently, companies that engage in business ties with Israeli companies have received threats.
The Sheikh Jarrah protest movement pulled off an impressive demonstration on Friday (June 25 2010.) More than five hundred Israelis and Palestinians marched in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, to protest the planned demolition of 22 Palestinian homes.” Bernard Avishai has posted an interesting account of the event at TPM Café. Here’s a short video clip, which shows a powerful, non-violent, protest:
Israeli TVs didn’t show. Since the event was extraordinary, however, Channel Two TV News had to mention it in the evening newscast. Here’s the clip:
The script, delivered by aspiring politician Yair Lapid, is matter-of-fact:
Some five hundred leftist activists and Palestinians demonstrated this afternoon in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem in protest of the approval by the Local Planning Committee in Jerusalem of the King’s Garden plan, which includes the planned demolition of 22 Palestinian homes in the neighborhood to make way for the construction of a new archaeological garden.
Channel Two did not have its own footage. They had options, however. They could have bought footage from the wires or Arab TVs, who were there in force. They could have approached the organizers and gotten free footage.
Instead, they used B Roll from the archive. Fair enough. They could have used, for example, their own footage from previous protests and marked it as archival.
Not only was the B Roll not labelled. It was highly unrepresentative of the event — prayers at an open-air mosque, followed immediately by children throwing stones at Police jeeps. End result: For the the lay viewer, the protest is associated with violence (preceded by Islamic religious incitement, no less).
Was this done with intentionally? As documented in-depth by Max Blumenthal last week and demonstrated in a Coteret series a few months ago, the Israeli mainstream media tends to serve as dutiful stenographers of government information, especially on security and foreign policy issues.
It’s doubtful if anyone was briefing in this instance, however. My hunch is that someone at Channel Two was pandering to his audience’s sensibilities (or to his own), consciously or subconsciously averting cognitive dissonance. For many months and years, Israeli audiences, of Channel Two TV in particular, have been subject to nightly conditioning: The only opposition to government policies on Palestinian issues is from violent Muslims and their lunatic-fringe Israeli sympathizers. Images of masses of young and “normal” Israelis (some of them religious!) marching peacefully to protest patent injustice, would move viewers outside their comfort zone, and on a Friday night to boot.
This is a large part of the answer to the question of where the Israeli peace movement has been for a decade. It would still be dormant if the new media had not allowed activists to break free of the restrictions of the MSM and top-heavy NGO structures. The demonstration at Silwan, like the dozens in Sheikh Jarrah that preceded it, was organized with nearly no outlay using Facebook and other social media.
Facebook also enabled many supporters who could not be present to support the demonstrators. Not only through the sharing of reports and images. On Saturday afternoon, one of the organizers — Daniel Dukarevich — sent out a note (Hebrew) describing what Channel Two had done and asking readers to e-mail the relevant ombudsmen with complaints. Twenty-four hours later, he reported that the Israel Press Council had received the largest number of complaints over a single incident ever and that Channel Two News had contacted him: They had gotten the message and really needed to unclog their inbox.
The cover story of this morning’s (June 21 2010) Maariv business section reports that targeted boycott and divestment actions — Israeli, Palestinian and international — are pushing an increasing number of Israeli companies out of the West Bank settlements and into Israeli proper:
He [Yaakov Malach, CEO and owner of a company located at the Barkan Industrial Zone] says, “there is not a single factory in Barkan today that is not searching for alternative locations inside Israel, particularly if the construction freeze continues.” However, other factory owners are not willing to discuss the matter at the moment, for fear of prematurely harming their workers. “Clearly, we’re concerned, and we are also examining things, but we don’t want to reveal the name of the factory,” a CEO of one of the largest factories in the area told Ma’ariv.
Along with this, Avraham Barkan, director of the Jezreel-Afula industrial zone administration, reports that he has received a number of requests from owners and managers of factories located over the Green Line, regarding the relocation of their activity to the Alon Tavor industrial park. Barkan attributes this to the factories’ fear of a shortage of workers as of the start of 2011, because of the Palestinian boycott, and to the fear that the construction freeze will continue
On June 17 2010, Calcalist’s Weekend Supplement profiled Who Profits?, the organization that compiles much of the data enabling targeted action:
Dr. Dalit Baum and Merav Amir watched all of that media noise from the side. They prefer to remain behind the scenes: to manufacture the thunder but to be away from the stage when it rolls into the media. The two are responsible for the project “Who Profits From the Occupation” that maps Israeli companies that earn money from the Israeli presence in the territories. Baum and Amir, with another 10-20 activists, do an in-depth study of each company, “based on stock exchange reports, newspaper reports and more,” explains Amir.
Full translations of both articles are posted below.
Ronit Morgenstern, Maariv, June 21 2010 [business section cover story; Hebrew original here]
Ma’ariv has learned that the Achva factory, which is located in the Barkan industrial zone in Samaria, over the Green Line, is examining the possibility of relocating its factory for manufacturing halva and tehina into the boundaries of the Green Line. The revenues of the factory, which is the leading factory for halva in Israel and one of the leading manufacturers of tehina and pastries, come to about NIS 100 million per year.
Yaakov Malach, CEO and owner of the company, which exports about 25% of its products, says that he is encountering increasing difficulties on the part of clients in Europe, because he is situated over the Green Line. “Selfridges of London took our products off the shelf in the past,” Malach relates, and adds that “it is difficult to reach sales points in Europe because of the fact that our products are marked as ‘Made in the West Bank.’”
Malach adds that the company also absorbs the special 7% tariff that is imposed on products manufactured over the Green Line, in order to keep his European clients. “Now the situation is even more complicated because of the Palestinian boycott, which affects clients abroad. What will break us down, and other factories in Barkan, is the fact that starting on January 1, 2011 Palestinian workers will no longer be permitted to work in Israeli factories over the Green Line.”
Achva has recently invested some NS 35 million of its capital in setting up a new pastry factory in the Ariel industrial zone, near Barkan. “Despite the large investment, and despite the fact that we have prepared a nearby area for transferring the halva and tehina factory from the Barkan industrial zone to the site in Ariel, we are preparing an alternative within the Green Line, and examining sites along the Trans-Israel Highway,” Malach explains.
Watch this video from the suppression Friday’s (June 4 2010) anti-Barrier protest at the West Bank village of Bilin. From 01:40 begins a scene which could have come straight from Satyricon: A group of helmeted, visored, and armored soldiers with long rectangular shields assaults a parade float of the Mavi Marmara decked with flags from around the world. They then charge down the roads at the fleeing crowd and grab an elderly lady. A protester on a wheelchair with a gas mask drives through them. A fire breaks out.
Most imagery from the village is much more banal in its horror. Like this one, of the arrest of a twelve-year old in the olive groves of the village on the same day.