Dr. Dalit Baum teaches Gender Studies at the University of Haifa and Merav Amir is a fellow at the Lexicon for Political Theory research at The Minerva Humanities Center, Tel Aviv University.
Entry 11: For taking the profit out of occupation– Dalit Baum and Merav Amirby NANCY KRICORIAN on DECEMBER 30, 2010
This is Entry 11 in the Mondo Awards end-of-year contest.
As the Campaign Manager for CODEPINK’s Stolen Beauty Ahava Boycott Campaign, I had been working with Dalit Baum and Merav Amir, the lead researchers of Who Profits (a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace) for over a year and a half via e-mail when I finally met them in November 2010 at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine London Session. During The London Session of the Tribunal, which was focused on corporate complicity in Israel’s violations of international law, activists, human rights campaigners, jurists, and attorneys testified about companies profiting from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
On the first day of the Tribunal, Dalit gave an overview of the settlement industry, ranging from the use of the Occupied West Bank as a place to dump Israeli toxic waste, to the expansion of hundreds of new vineyards near settlements as a way to take over Palestinian land. She concluded, “Sustenance for the [illegal] settlements is from the main Israeli economy, not just settlement production.” The Israeli economy is so deeply imbricated in the occupation that it is not possible to effectively distinguish between that economy and direct settlement profiteering.
The following day Merav presented her thorough and impressive research on Israeli finance companies and their connection to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. She explained that there are almost 600,000 Israeli Jewish settlers in the Occupied West Bank, and they constitute 10% of Jewish Israelis. All the major Israeli banks have branches in the settlements, providing services to the settlers, owning property in the settlements, and paying taxes to the state. They offer mortgages for buying and building houses in the settlements, and they provide loans to the “municipalities” that govern the settlements. She concluded, as had Dalit, that the entire Israeli economy is deeply involved in and entwined with the settlement project.
That same day Dalit and Merav together presented an indictment of the British private security firm G4S, but what impressed me even more than their own extremely impressive testimonies was the fact that over the course of the two days as other activists and campaigners rose to speak about the work they were doing in holding accountable international companies—ranging, in alphabetical order, from Ahava, Carmel/Agrexco, Cement Roadstone Holdings, Dexia Bank to Soda Stream and Veolia—each speaker paid homage to Dalit, Merav and Who Profits as having provided the information essential to his or her work. It finally dawned on me that without Dalit, Merav and their impeccably documented research the work done by activists around the world to support the Palestinian initiated Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Movement (BDS) would be a hundred times more difficult if not impossible.
In fact, in mid-December, the Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC), in a press advisory about the A-1 Train Project (the Tel Aviv to Jerusalem light rail) and the theft of Palestinian land involved in its construction, said,
The BNC thanks and warmly salutes the Coalition of Women for Peace and its Who Profits from the Occupation? project, whose valuable and timely research on the A1 train project and complicit companies will facilitate a successful campaign.
Dalit and Merav, in addition to being indefatigable researchers, are also wonderful people. They are smart, witty, warm and self-deprecating. I am awed by their bravery in the face of the hostility and harassment they are subjected to because of their principled stand against the Occupation and its toxic effects on their society—although I know they would absolutely object to my using that term, emphasizing their relative privilege as Israeli Jews, and referencing the far worse treatment meted out to their Palestinian partners. There are bills that have passed first reading in the Israeli Knesset (New Knesset Bills Threaten Israeli Civil Society) that would effectively criminalize the work that they do to support the Global BDS Movement.
Nancy Kricorian is part of the national staff and the coordinator for the Stolen Beauty Campaign. In addition to working with CODEPINK, Nancy is a writer and a novelist. Mondoweiss is a news website devoted to covering American foreign policy in the Middle East, chiefly from a progressive Jewish perspective. This blog is maintained by Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz.