Defeating Denormalization: Shared Palestinian and Israeli Perspectives on a New Path to Peace

With permission, read the full study on Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Executive Summary

The Palestinian Authority’s Policy of Denormalization
Khaled Abu Toameh

  • The current Palestinian political economy, influenced far too greatly by the BDS and anti-normalization campaigns, amounts to a corrupt, unsustainable, terrorsupporting regime that is disinterested in the economic well-being of its own people and the development of a new state.
  • Denormalization’s first objective is to intimidate and threaten Palestinians and Israelis who seek peace and a “two states for two peoples” solution. Denormalization’s second objective is to delegitimize and isolate Israel in the international community. In this regard, denormalization parallels Hamas and other terror groups that are working to destroy any chance of peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
  • Under the pretext of refusing to bolster Israel’s “occupation economy,” the Palestinian leadership has publicly declined to cooperate on joint projects with the Israeli government or the Israeli private sector that would benefit both economies and both peoples.

The Effects of BDS and Denormalization on West Bank Industrial Zones
Col. (res.) Dr. Danny Tirza

  • What will be the impact of an economic boycott of the products of the West Bank settlements and the Israeli industrial zones? Already in 2010, the PA announced a boycott of the settlement products, aimed at preventing their use in the Palestinian market. Except for the huge housing project in Rawabi, which is making use of engineers, planners, advisers, raw materials, and professionals from Israel, but not from the settlements, the boycott has been a failure.
  • Clearly, the direct outcome of the Palestinian boycott of settlement products and industrial zones will be a mortal blow to Palestinian employment, which will also damage cycles of consumption and commerce. The PA offers no productive alternative to such employment, and the decreased standard of living will lead to violence and the strengthening of the radical Muslim elements that seek to destroy Israel and undermine Palestinian governance.
  • Various models and initiatives to establish Palestinian industrial zones have failed to take hold, despite years of investment and interest from donors across globe, including Japan, Turkey, and European countries.

The Desire for Defined Status in Multicultural Jerusalem
Prof. Ali Qleibo

  • Fifty years after the annexation of Jerusalem, the innumerable employment opportunities provided by the Israeli system have fostered a de facto upgraded standard of living. Despite appeals by some Jordanians and Palestinians to boycott the Israelis (the concept of sumud), the integration of greater Jerusalem Arab residents into the Israeli sector has continued unabated.
  • Former cave-dwelling Bedouin shepherds and peasants living in penury, have now moved from the kerosene-lamp-lit caves with outhouses, to comfortable villas and spacious apartments with full amenities including air-conditioning and at least two cars per household. As white and blue collar workers, they are beneficiaries of the flourishing Israeli labor market.
  • However, despite advantageous economic conditions, Jerusalem’s Arab residents are still in an untenable political situation. Since the signing of the 1995 Oslo II Agreement, Arab Jerusalemites have been stateless. They cannot claim sovereign status in either Jordan or the Palestinian Authority.

SodaStream as a Model of “Economic Peace”
Daniel Birnbaum

  • SodaStream chose to employ Palestinians and Israelis at the Mishor Adumim facility in the West Bank out of business necessity, not ideological conviction. Some of my colleagues were skeptical about employing Israelis and Palestinians side by side, especially so shortly after the bloody Second Intifada that ended in 2004. However, we discovered peace “by accident,” just as Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin by accident.
  • On the factory floor, I witnessed far more than simply “experiments” or “exercises” in coexistence and tolerance, but actual peaceful and harmonious relations between Israeli and Palestinian employees. Israelis worked under Palestinian managers and vice versa; Palestinians and Israeli SodaStream employees were exposed to one another five days a week, at least eight hours a day. As a result, interpersonal ties were also formed between SodaStream employees outside of the workplace.
  • SodaStream employees in the Mishor Adumim factory became family. Our employees also represented broad diversity: Israelis, Palestinians, Bedouins, Sunni Muslims, Christians, Jews from the former Soviet Union, Ethiopian, Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrahi Jews, and Darfuri refugees.

Palestinian-Israeli Normalization in the Workplace: A Manager’s View
Nabil Basherat

  • Simply put, the global BDS movement has caused damage to the Palestinian public. The BDS movement has threatened my job security and livelihood. It damaged the livelihoods of hundreds of SodaStream factory workers, who were laid off as SodaStream left its Mishor Adumim factory in the West Bank.
  • Even though the BDS movement portrayed SodaStream’s Palestinian workers as “slaves” who were abused by management, this is not the case. SodaStream’s Palestinian workers are very satisfied. I understand that the PLO, the PA, and the Fatah Party have long opposed Palestinians and Israelis working together.
  • However, we also need to ensure that our own leadership and the international community know what moderate Palestinians want. It is important that they do not fall under the influence of pro-BDS extremists and instead listen to the average Palestinian worker. They have to understand that if they continue labeling Israeli products and boycotting Israel, they are hurting Palestinian workers and not the Israeli government or military.

Palestinian-Israeli Equality and Normalization: The Case of Rami Levy Supermarkets
Rami Levy

  • Employment at Rami Levy is in high demand among Palestinians for various reasons. In the Palestinian Authority-controlled parts of the West Bank, a Palestinian manager or teacher earns on average 2,000 shekels (570 U.S. dollars) a month, well below the Israeli minimum wage.
  • Palestinian businesses regulated by the PA are not required to provide employees with social benefits such as pension-fund contributions. Palestinian business owners are also not required to pay property, excise, or sales taxes. Nor are businesses required to reimburse employees’ transportation costs or to provide compensation or insurance for work-related injuries. At Rami Levy, however, a full-time Palestinian employee earns 4,000 to 7,000 Israeli shekels a month (1,142 to 2,000 U.S. dollars) plus full medical and social benefits as guaranteed by Israeli law. Palestinian managers earn more.
  • The denormalization extremists have attempted to delegitimize our efforts at harmonious coexistence between Palestinian and Israeli employees. BDS and denormalization activists have also portrayed us as a source of tension and conflict. Rami Levy stores in the West Bank uphold the model of good-neighborly relations and peaceful normalization as envisioned and specified in the Oslo Accords.
  • We are one of the few businesses that promote close cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian employees. In addition to being a model for economic growth and job creation in the region, Rami Levy stores also provide an important example of peaceful coexistence and cooperation in an otherwise chaotic and violent Middle East.

A Palestinian Woman’s Perspective on Working for an Israeli Company
Nadia Aloush

  • I want people from all over the world to read and to understand the real Palestinian story. Palestinians simply want to support our families, and live a life of dignity and well-being in our neighborhoods and in good relations with Israelis. It is important to me that people should know that there is also coexistence in workplaces between people and that we fear that sanctions and international pressure could harm these ties and cause us great damage.
  • At the end of 1997, an Israeli law was passed that determined that Palestinians working in Israeli factories or in the Civil Administration would receive worker’s protections according to Israeli law. Under this law, Israeli and Palestinian Rami Levy employees are truly equal. Along with our regular salary, the Israelis also give us health and social insurance. Rami Levy also grants a yearly bonus.
  • Most Palestinian Authority employees do not receive a salary slip, and there is nothing like social rights, a pension, or an education fund. I receive at least 4,000 shekels a month. In the PA, perhaps a famous doctor will receive 3,000 shekels a month, without insurance or rights.

EU-PA Cooperation and Risks to the Palestinian Future
Pinhas Inbari

  • Although the European Union repeatedly emphasizes its opposition to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, its policy of labeling products manufactured in territories east of the 1949 Armistice Lines has reinforced the Palestinian BDS strategy to assault Israel, isolate it, and cause its economic collapse.
  • However, the EU claims that its product-labeling policy – which seeks to differentiate between Israel within the pre-1967 lines, which Europe recognizes, and the territories located to the east of those lines, which Europe does not recognize as belonging to Israel – is only intended to pressure Israel to withdraw to the 1967 lines, thus enabling the creation of a Palestinian state.
  • The EU labeling policy actually undermines the West Bank industrial zones that provide excellent employment to some 35,000 Palestinians. These zones come under the jurisdiction of Israeli local authorities but have no connection to “settlements.” Business and commercial enterprises in these 15 zones provide employment for Palestinian workers who cannot find alternative work in the PA-controlled territories.
  • Europe, for its part, in cooperating with only the highest levels of the PA leadership, has willfully ignored the voices of thousands of Palestinian workers who welcome Israeli commercial enterprises in the West Bank and depend on West Bank industrial zones to support their families.

Wasatia: The Straight Path from Denormalization to Reconciliation
Prof. Mohammed S. Dajani Daoudi

  • Wasatiastrives to foster a culture of religious, social, and political moderation and reconciliation to help lay the groundwork for Palestinian and Israeli children to grow up in peace, security, prosperity, and harmony.
  • In March 2014, I took 27 students to Poland for an educational experience about the Holocaust. We also brought 30 Israeli students to the Dheisheh refugee camp in Bethlehem for an educational experience about the Nakba, the Palestinian “catastrophe” stemming from the 1948 war.
  • My initiative was portrayed as Zionist propaganda, and I was labeled as a “collaborator” and “traitor,” two highly emotional terms in Palestinian lexicon. Nine political student organizations on campus issued a public statement against me titled “Normalization = Treason.” Students demonstrated against me on campus and delivered a letter to my secretary threatening to kill me if I returned to teach at the university. The social networks buzzed against me. My car was torched. The only possession of mine to survive the torching was my personal copy of the Koran.
  • I opted to exercise my freedom to dissent from the collective narrative and stand by the ideals of truth, righteousness, justice, compassion, and freedom; I took the risk by making that choice to alienate myself from the society in which I was born and bred. In wanting to break this taboo, I was aspiring to leave the door wide open for social change, reconciliation, democracy, and peace.