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Norway Trade Body Calls For Boycotting Israeli Products

IslamOnline & News Agencies
1 July 2002


Some supermarkets in Norway are identifying goods from Israel by sticking yellow labels on them, to give consumers the option of purchasing or not purchasing them, a Palestinian website reported.

In an editorial published on its website, the Palestine Chronicle said that there should be no action against products that are made by the U.S. , or any other country, by firms owned by loyal citizens who happen to be Jewish, Islamic, or Christian.

However, the paper added, if there are products from Israeli firms in the world marketplace, and people wish to point out that they are indeed Israeli products, and that to indicate their objection to buying such products made in Israel because of Israeli aggression and terrorist activities, then they have that right.

The Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions, has severely criticized Israeli aggression against Palestinians and expressed their fury at Israel’s damaging of the 1993 Oslo agreement, reported Norwegian daily newspaper, Aften Posten on May 15.

The Federation has been fending off harsh and carefully organized criticism from Israeli authorities and Jewish groups since it itself criticized Israeli’s military action in the West Bank , the paper said.

On a speech delivered on Labor Day, the head of the organization Gerd-Liv Valla called for a boycott of Israeli products until the violence ceased.

At the same time, Valla criticized the Norwegian Government for being too passive to the conflict in the Middle East , reported the Norway Post.

“In my opinion they are too hesitant. I expect them to be quite clear and distinct in their view of Kofi Annan’s initiative for an international peace force,” Valla said.

In her speech, Valla pointed to the fact that this year’s May Day celebrations were marked by sorrow and anger over the conflict in the Middle East . The situation has gone from bad to worse over the last few weeks.

The promises by Israeli Prime Minister Sharon of security for the population has led to the opposite. “We will urge a boycott of Israeli products as long as the conflict continues,” Gerd-Liv Valla said.

The reaction by Israeli and Jewish organizations has been swift. A delegation from the federation was nearly prevented from entering Israel in May and the Israeli embassy in Oslo has been crying foul. There were also e-mail campaigns even from the Anti-Defamation League of the U.S, the paper reported.

However, the Federation are standing by their position. Jon Ivar Naalsund, an official in the organization, said that he believes the Palestinians should have the same Israeli right to exist on a long-term basis within secure and accepted boundaries, which was the basis for the Oslo agreement. “We are disappointed and upset that Israel has damaged this work so severely,” he said.

He said that the organization is far from alone in its criticism of current Israeli policy, noting that other European labor organizations also have opposed recent actions by Israel 's current conservative government.

In a speech which he gave on May 17, Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik expressed his unease clearly stated that he was against a boycott of Israeli products, reported the Norway Post.

“Some have called for a boycott, but I do not share such a view. And it is not the Government's policy,” Bondevik said adding that a boycott and sanctions against Israel would not contribute towards securing security and peace in the region.

“We would only create aggression among the Israelis through such an action. I disagree with TUC leader Gerd-Liv Valla on this point,” the Norwegian Prime Minister said.

The paper reported May 5 that trade union movements in Oslo will begin a blockade of Israeli products, preventing the goods from leaving the warehouses.

The Transport Workers’ Union will barricade the warehouses belonging to the importers of fruit and vegetables, stopping the delivery of Israeli produce, said the paper.

The union said the blockade will last until the Israeli military actions against Palestinians are stopped. “If the grocery chains want any wares, they first have to remove the Israeli products,” says union spokesman Thorbjoern Kristoffersen.

However, the response for the boycott campaign has not been received well in Norway by consumers, reported the Norway Post on May 3.

Most of the major grocery chains say they have not registered any decline in the sale of Israeli goods.

Only one of the four largest chains, NorgesGruppen, reports a slight decline in the sale of Israeli products compared with last year, but they don't have any concrete figures, the paper said.

Bama, the fruit wholesalers, registered a 30 per cent drop in the sales of Israeli potatoes at the beginning of April, but the sales are now almost back to normal.

Swedish consumers on the other hand, have reacted more strongly, according to the Swedish trade journal Fri Kopenskap. The sale of Jaffa oranges in particular has suffered, and Ica Gourmet in Sweden has changed to different suppliers of avocado and oranges, reported the paper.

There is also organized work carried out by Palestinians residing in Norway . A group of them have started up an organization dedicated for boycotting Israel . According to their website, “Boycott Israel”, meet a couple of times a month, and have divided themselves into three units: the consumer group, the shop group and the coordination-press group.

The consumer group deals with the printing of leaflets, posters and stickers, as well as circulating the material. It is in charge of holding stands every Saturday, and is responsible for most of the “normal” boycotting work directed towards the consumer.

The shop group works at influencing shop owners in the Oslo area not to sell Israeli products in their stores. This group deals with individual shops as well as the wholesalers.

The coordination-press group is responsible for preparing and leading the ‘grand’ meetings, process requests, keep in contact with affiliated organizations, work towards the press and run the finances according to directives given by the grand meetings.

On May 8, the Aften Posten reported that Israel claims that foreign donations, including the 20 million dollars Norway has given to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the past year, has funded what it calls “terrorist” attacks.

Foreign funding covers about 70 percent of the PA’s budget, which has suffered after Israel withheld USD 507 million in taxes and duties which should have gone to the Palestinian Authority this year, reported the paper

To prevent the collapse of the PA’s infrastructure and maintain public salaries Norway , the European Union and several Arab nations contributed money to cover the PA’s monthly operating costs of about USD 93 million.

Arab nations pitch in with about USD 55 million per month, the EU gives USD 9 million monthly and Norway has donated two USD 10 million payments, once last year and once in 2002.

The European Union does not export items that are manufactured in the occupied territories or in Jewish settlements.