May/June 2011, Pages 73-74
Who Profits From the Occupation of Palestine?
Dalit Baum, Ph.D., who heads Global Exchange's new Palestine Economic Activism Project, explained to an audience at New York City's Barnard College March 9 that Israel's military control of historic Palestine may be costly to Arabs, but is a huge money-maker for Israeli and multinational companies.
In 2005 Baum and other members of Israel's Coalition of Women for Peace were debating how to respond to the call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). They realized they knew very little about the corporations that fueled the "settlement industry." The result of their ongoing research—www.whoprofits.org—has become an essential tool for activists.
"It's a switch from getting hit with tear gas at a demonstration," explained Baum, "to asking 'who makes that tear gas?' We look for logos. That's who profits from Israel's occupation."
Using slides to illustrate, she showed how corporations profit in three main ways from Israel's occupation since 1967 of the Gaza Strip, West Bank and Golan Heights.
West Bank settlements currently house more than half a million Jewish residents, and companies are attracted by cheap land and labor, tax incentives, and lax enforcement of environmental and labor laws. Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories, the target of a CODEPINK boycott campaign, makes cosmetic products in the West Bank settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. Eden Springs gets the water it sells from a spring in the occupied Golan Heights.
Baum cited SodaStream as an example of deceptive labeling. The company makes carbonating devices to transform water into soda that it retails in Macy's, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Bloomingdale's. Although store buyers see a "Made in Israel" label on SodaStream's popular products, they're actually made in the illegal West Bank settlement of Mishor Edomin.
Economic exploitation is another way companies benefit from the occupation, Baum continued. Palestinian consumers are a captive market for Israeli goods, and Arab businesses can't compete with Israeli industries. Alon Group, for example, monopolizes gas supplied to the besieged Gaza Strip, while Paz monopolizes petroleum supplied to the West Bank. Because of these and other monopolies, Palestinians are forced to pay more for goods and services than they would if prices were competitive.
Finally, Baum described how control of the 3.5 million Palestinians under Israeli military rule has boosted other businesses, including those involved in private security; construction and maintenance of walls, roadblocks, checkpoints and prisons; and specialized equipment and services. Combined Systems Inc. (CSI), for example, manufactures crowd control weapons, including projectile and chemical munitions, flash-bang grenades and launching accessories it sells to the Israeli army. The security firm G4S Israel (Hashmira) provided the security systems for Ktziot and Megido prisons which hold Palestinian political prisoners, as well as equipment for Israeli-run checkpoints and terminals in the West Bank and Gaza.
For more information visit www.whoprofits.org/.