Where: Downtown supermarket in Beit Sahour
Mission: Boycott shopping for fighting the occupation
Ameer visited the Joint Advocacy Initiative a rainy day in the beginning of November. He was in a good mood despite the cold weather. “Rain is a good thing” he said, “You know the water situation is quite hard because of Israel”. Ameer might “only” be thirteen years old, but this boy is an observant and passionate idealist who cares for his community. This young guy has plenty of backbone.
Ameer doesn’t spend all his energy from his frustration due to the occupation by praising the rain. His strategy involves more than a tribute to the Clerk of the Weather. The lack of mechanisms for responding to violation of international law gave birth to the BDS, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which is implemented all over the world. The occupied territories are no exception, in spite of the ironic difficulties the oppressed people are facing while boycotting their oppressor. Ameer’s family has found ways to handle this.
In addition to the general problems Palestinians experience every day, Ameer’s family is confronted with certain challenges due to the legal system of Israel. His family is originally from Jerusalem, and because Ameer was born here, he obtains a Jerusalem ID. In contrast, his sister who was born in the West Bank, doesn’t obtain such an ID as she does not meet the relevant conditions of the Israeli law. At the same time, the P.A. does not have the competence to give her a Palestinian ID. The lack of personal identification paper makes life even harder, and due to years of struggle she decided that she neither wanted the ID nor anything else from Israel. This brought the boycott movement to the house of Awad.
Today, Ameer is the protagonist of the BDS among the family members. Due to his engagement Ameer seems like a demanding and tough costumer, and he will give the store keeper a hard time if he finds that necessary. When I had the chance to go shopping with Ameer I expected anything, and I carefully prepared my diplomat skills.
In the shopping mall Ameer clarifies how the boycotting works in practice. If you believe that the labeling language of the product description gives you the answer to its origin, you will easily be fooled. Look at this bag of flour, for instance. Even olives, which are deeply manifested in Palestinian culture, could be Israeli produced. But don’t you panic, the key is simple: On the bar code of every product you’ll find a number. “If the code starts with 729, the product is Israeli. But 544 means Palestinian made article” Ameer explains. In addition there are some exceptions which complicate the system. Ameer emphasizes the natural mineral water named “Jericho”, which seems Palestinian, but is benefiting Israel by the tax system. For this reason Ameer recommends the alternative “Arwa”.
Ameer talks about the challenges he faces by convincing people to support their local businesses. “Some people think that the Israeli products are better, but that is not true”. Ameer loves the Palestinian milk and never misses milk produced in Israel. Maybe one of the means within the Israeli strategy is to suppress people until they believe that the oppressor is more talented than them. A second argument Ameer fights is that “Israeli products are cheaper”, especially at the Israeli supermarket chain Rami Levi, now also located in the West Bank. According to Ammer’s calculations the cost of travelling will increase the cost of the shopping in total.
From time to time Ameer faces a third argument which explains the choice of Israeli products. Availability of Palestinian products could be an obstacle, and Ameer illustrates this with a story about how he once thirsted for hours because the stores didn’t offer Palestinian water. Ameer doesn’t cave in too easily – and who would claim that resistance work is comfortable?
In addition to his consciousness about selecting the right products, Ameer promotes BDS in different occasions. When his scout group arranged a camp, he and some of the members encouraged the leaders to implement BDS as a part of the event. As a result the scouts were boycotting Israeli products for an entire week and were spreading awareness of the occupation at the same time.
While Ameer talks I can’t help myself from picturing this boy as a coming leader or politician in the years to come. The young idealist says he would rather work for an NGO. As we said goodbye I suddenly remembered my need for some ingredients for tonight’s dinner. In this moment, pressure regarding shopping was enormous and I felt like everyone was watching. One hour later, I left the store carrying two products in a plastic bag. Palestinian products, thanks to Ameer Awad.