Israeli Vegetables at Spinneys: Tip of the Iceberg
By: Rami Zurayk
Published Sunday, January 13, 2013
This month, the Palestinian Farmers Union issued an urgent appeal for the boycott of Israeli agricultural goods and companies. In Lebanon, we didn’t feel that they meant us, until a week ago when a Lebanese newspaper revealed that Israeli produce had been found at the Spinneys grocery store in Saida.
According to the paper, which published pictures of the offending items, the produce included multi-colored sweet peppers in a plastic bag. The label on the bag said: “Country of Origin: Spain for the green peppers and Israel for the yellow ones.”
It was the Lebanese army who removed the produce because of Lebanon’s boycott of Israel. Spinneys decried the fact that Israeli products had been found in its shops – for the second time – assuring everyone of their respect for the boycott law. Perhaps they respect it as much as they respect Lebanon’s labor laws.
If we leave aside the fact that the boycott law was broken, there are two important issues here. The first is that regardless of the origin of the vegetables, why are we importing vegetables to the country of vegetables? Does the demand for sweet peppers exceed the supply these days? Is it possible that producing these vegetables in Spain and occupied Palestine, shipping them to Holland to be packaged, and then shipping them to Lebanon is cheaper than producing sweet peppers locally? If this is true, then the agriculture and trade ministries should explain this mystery to us.
The second issue is related to the reaction to the news on the comments page of the Internet edition of the newspaper. Scores of racist and derogatory comments were hurled at Arabs while Israel was praised. Of course, in Lebanon, we like to outdo the West when it comes to freedom of opinion and expression. This perhaps turns certain newspapers into mouthpieces for our enemy’s propaganda.
Rami Zurayk is Al-Akhbar's environment columnist and author of the blog Land and People.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.