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Jordan Valley settlements hit by boycott campaign
Israeli economy » The export-driven income of farmers drop as their production is shunned by Western European grocery chains.

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This might include reviving plans for EU-wide guidelines for labeling settlement products. Currently, about half the 28 member states support such labeling, a step that would enable consumers to observe a boycott.

Britain issued guidelines to retailers for the voluntary labeling of settlement products in 2009. In December, Britain’s overseas trade body strongly discouraged firms from doing business with settlements.

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In recent years, several British supermarket chains have either begun labeling or stopped selling goods from Israeli settlements.

"Supermarkets are now starting to realize . that there’s a really big reputational risk involved here," said Michael Deas, a Britain-based coordinator for the international boycott movement.

Marks & Spencer said it hadn’t sold any products from the West Bank since 2007. Upscale supermarket chain Waitrose said it stopped selling herbs from the West Bank several years ago. Morrisons, Britain’s fourth-largest grocer, said it stopped selling dates from the West Bank in 2011. In 2012, the Co-operative Group, the country’s fifth-largest grocer, banned Israeli settlement produce from its shelves.

Some retailers, like Co-op, said they were taking a moral stand, decrying the settlements as illegal. Others, like Waitrose, said their decision was commercial.

In Germany, the Kaiser’s supermarket chain said it stopped carrying products from the West Bank and the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights in 2012.

Israeli officials say the boycott has strong anti-Semitic overtones and aims to delegitimize the Jewish state.

Supporters of the campaign say they are gaining momentum and have pointed to a string of recent successes. This week, Dutch pension asset manager PGGM said it divested from five Israeli banks because they are involved in financing the construction of Jewish settlements.

Other moves, such as a recent decision by an American scholarly group to boycott Israeli universities, invited a broad backlash, in part because it targeted Israel and not just settlements.

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Jordan Valley settlers say a boycott also hurts about 6,000 Palestinians employed on their farms.

Palestinian officials counter that Israel has suppressed virtually all Palestinian economic development in the valley and that Palestinians could create tens of thousands of jobs if freed from Israeli shackles.

While some settlers hope to see the valley annexed to Israel, Benzion, 57, said she wouldn’t stand in the way of peace, even if it means dismantling her life’s work.

"Nothing breaks my heart so easy, especially not bricks," she said. "I will not even have a second thought of leaving here, if it’s for a peace treaty with our neighbors. I will cherish that."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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