Two days before the beginning of Ramadan, an American Muslim group based in the U.S. launched a nationwide campaign calling for the boycott of dates grown on Israeli-occupied land in the West Bank.
The American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) started the campaign, titled “This Ramadan Make a Date with Justice: Choose Occupation-Free Dates,” as another step in the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that targets Israeli products on the international market. BDS began in 2005 as a form of non-violent protest to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine.
“Unfortunately, many Muslims unknowingly use Israeli dates, most of which are grown in Israeli settlements built illegally on Palestinian land,” said Mr. Awad Hamdan, AMP National Programs director told Al Arabiya.
Awad said: “It’s about educating the American people; Muslim and non-Muslim community.”
The AMP aims to inform the public of the origins of products that support Israeli settlements, and timed its most recent campaign to coincide with a holiday in which dates get a lot of attention.
“We decided to launch the campaign during the month of Ramadan to gain speed very quickly and it has resulted to be successful. Dates are a product bought a lot from Muslim consumers during Ramadan because it’s typically eaten to break from their fast,” said Awad.
According to a recent report by the Israeli Haaretz daily, many date farms are also exploiting farmhands and using other questionable labor practices. The Israeli newspaper said it found that child workers were being forced to stay in date trees for up to nine hours in the sun, and that farm owners were discriminating against Palestinian workers by paying them less than their Israeli counterparts.
“People are always asking about how they can get involved, and there is a way for the average American who isn’t in politics or in the government to do something. It’s a simple step of a conscious decision out of the customer to stand for justice,” said Jamil Morrar, supporter of the boycott campaign and owner of a grocery store called Red Sea Food Market and Halal Meat in southern California.
Morrar said that his store has never sold Israeli products and it was only natural to join the boycott. “We do get occasional requests and questioned for certain products we don’t carry, but once we tell them why, customers are very understanding and appreciate it,” he told Al Arabiya.
Over 170 groups joined the BDS movement when it began in 2005, including many Jewish organizations like Jewish Voices for Peace.
“We support these kinds of actions. We believe that justice is important and feel that this is one perfect opportunity to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters,” said Sydney Levy, a member and staff write for JVP.
“This movement will remind consumers day to day that they can have a choice to be accomplice with injustice or make a small step to detach themselves from injustice,” he said.
AMP wants consumers to stop buying dates from the company Hadiklaim, sold under brands like Jordan River, Jordan River Bio-Tops and King Solomon.
“Instead, people can support the American economy by purchasing dates produced in California and Arizona,” noted Awad.
(Jennifer Vasquez is an intern in Al Arabiya’s Washington, D.C. bureau)