By Asad Dandia:
As the month draws near and Muslims begin to purchase their necessities; exporters are preparing to flood the markets with their products.
Israeli date exporters, as they do every Ramadan, are hiking up production of dates grown on Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements. Ramadan is the second busiest time of year for Israeli date exporters, second only to Christmas.
You may notice that some date packages are marketed with the words ‘Product of West Bank, Palestine’. This crafty choice of words could not be more deceitful. While the dates are certainly produced in the fertile area near the West Bank city of Jericho, the label misleads the reader into believing that Palestinians are primarily profiting from them.
The dates are in fact packaged on illegal Israeli farms which are maintained by settlers whose businesses serve to sustain a violent occupation.
Add to this the abysmal life conditions created by the occupation which not only deprives Palestinians of access to basic resources like water (on their own land) but also does not permit them to develop their own agriculture. The result?
They are left with no option but to perform hard labour on these date farms under the most hazardous and precarious conditions in order to earn a meagre income to put food on the table. It is either 1) they work on these farms, or 2) live hopelessly unemployed because Israel deprives them of sustainable work opportunities. They should not have to choose between these two horrible and humiliating options.
I witnessed this scenario play out firsthand when I spent Ramadan in Palestine last year. It is among the most sinister aspects of the occupation, and by purchasing from these exporters, we become enablers of their crimes.
Israel argues that these date farms bring income to the Palestinians and that if we boycott them, we are depriving Palestinians of sustenance (how considerate!). Speak to any Palestinian forced to work in these conditions, and they will tell you that losing this exploitative job in the short-term is worth it in the fight for dignity and justice in the long-term.
So, in adherence with BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) guidelines, in solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and sisters, and in the true spirit of Islam rooted in social justice, this Ramadan I urge us all to purchase our dates ethically and consciously.