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May 4, 2021

Labour abuse

Opinion

May 4, 2021

Oppression often comes in the most deceivingly innocuous forms; sometimes bite-sized and seemingly fruitful. The commodities they come in sugar-coat the not-so bite-sized exploitation they represent.

In the 1770’s, tyranny came in the form of British tea. In the 1960’s, exploited labor bore Delano grapes. Both goods were boycotted en masse – and reflexively, both bore witness to their respective boycotts contributing greatly to the dismantlement of their oppression.

Today, labor abuse, exploitation of natural resources, and theft of Palestinian land comes in the form of Israeli dates. It is imperative that we follow in the footsteps of the revolutionaries’ tea boycott, the historic Delano Grape Boycott, and boycott the Israeli date industry, too.

According to data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the Israeli date industry exported 321,980 tonnes of dates to the US in 2017 alone, generating $181.2 million in export value. Israel thus becomes the second highest source of date exports to the US since 2015.

Such lucrative brands include Jordan River, Delilah, and King Solomon. Israeli date brands other than these can be identified by checking the label for three main producers: Hadiklaim, Carmel Agrexco, and Mehadrin.

As consumers, we cannot be financially complicit in the exploitation this industry represents. 60 percent of Israeli dates are grown on illegal settlements – Israel’s enclaves which are established on internationally recognized Palestinian territory. Although all fifteen judges on the International Court of Justice unanimously ruled the construction of these settlements to be illegal back in 2004, Israel continues to establish them relentlessly, often clearing Palestinian farmland for their creation and displacing many. Olive groves are torched; families are evicted; homes are demolished – in two weeks, Israel will displace 500 Jerusalemites for the construction of yet another settlement in the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The precariousness of Israeli settlement expansion is thus evermore timely; although the Sheikh Jarrah settlement won’t see a date farm’s creation, the date industry’s profitability financially enables settlements like these to be built.

Yet whether a date farm is amongst the 60 percent or the remaining 40 percent, this industry is notorious for its exploitation of Palestinian labor. With a Palestinian economy crippled by the Israeli occupation, Palestinian workers are often have no choice but to work on Israeli date farms to support their families. Israel conveniently throws the gruelling labor of date farming on economically desperate Palestinian employees – all while providing no health benefits and measly pay. Employees are subject to scorching temperatures. They are often forced to climb to dangerous heights with risk of severe falls. Their wages are often below minimum wage and lower than their Israeli counterparts.

Like Delano grapes, the prominence of Israeli dates has fortunately diminished through boycott efforts, but it is up to us consumers to continue to diminish it.

Excerpted: ‘Oppression in the Form of Israeli Dates’

Commondreams.org