Yossi Sarid
Haaretz (Opinion)
May 28, 2010 - 12:00am

Ehud Barak was once asked how he would behave if he were a young Palestinian living all his life under an occupation that refused to go away. I would have joined one of the terror organizations, he said without hesitating. All this happened while Barak's party was still alive and before he became his master's apprentice.

Barak, of course, got carried away. No decent person would ever agree to be a terrorist, no matter what the reason for his struggle. My worldview would not allow me to kill random passersby whose bad luck it was to be on a bus during an explosion.

But if I, rather than Barak, were a Palestinian, I would certainly join the boycott that is being imposed on the settlements and their products; I would be one of the initiators. After all, it would not be human to expect me to buy my tombstone from people who were determined to bury my hopes for a good life and independence. And who would even hew the tombstone from my plundered land?

David Ben-Gurion understood the principle and also applied it. That is the idea now being embraced by Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad. When the Jewish state was in the making, Ben-Gurion decided to end its economic dependence on the Arabs and strengthen the blue-and-white economy. So he declared a campaign for buying "the products of the land."

This is how, in the 1930s, an association promoting this goal was born; it was considered a national virtue to buy only agricultural and industrial products that were "Jewish." Young and enthusiastic volunteers visited the markets and threatened the merchants. They published announcements denouncing traitors and even smashed the shop windows of merchants who failed to comply or understand. Intellectuals and philosophers, writers and poets, all joined in the campaign. Natan Alterman and Leah Goldberg were but two writers who served as mouthpieces for the Jewish community in those days.

In his book "One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate," Tom Segev includes the story of a soap factory whose Zionist management requested a permit. Ze'ev Jabotinsky would quote from memory remarks by a British official on the subject: Don't forget that there is a flourishing soap factory in Nablus, the official said. If the Jews also set up an enterprise like that, maybe it will be better, and what will happen to the Arab factory? And in this newspaper, an advertisement appeared promising fragrant soap made from pure olive oil that would be free of any Arab mixture, and of better quality than the soap from Nablus.

And that reminds me: At the beginning of the 1980s, I was approached by Palestinian investors looking for help. They wanted to set up a factory for sour pickles, but the Israeli "high commissioner" refused to give them a permit. I told them it would be okay, but I was merely boasting - I wasn't able to set free the pickled cucumbers.

I approached those I had to approach and was told sourly that the pickles from there would finish off the whole pickling industry here. Many years have passed, and the occupation is not what it used to be. Today it's a less profitable business.

Ben-Gurion was better at boycotting than Abbas or Fayyad. While he declared a boycott on all Arab goods, theirs is only a boycott of products from the settlements. The Palestinians still have a great deal to learn from us, the "Yahud."


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