Defiant Palestinians boycott US projects, products

US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has prompted various Palestinian boycotts of US-funded projects and programs.

al-monitor People chant slogans during a protest against US President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, in Amman, Jordan, Dec. 29, 2017. Photo by REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed.

Jan 17, 2018

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian law schools in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip will boycott the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition organized by Tetra Tech DPK on the grounds that it is funded by the US government. The Dec. 23 decision came in the wake of US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The competition is the largest moot court competition in international law, with participants from hundreds of law schools in 95 countries. It is held in the United States every March, and Palestine had been taking part in it for seven years.

Moayad Hattab, the dean of the faculty of law at An-Najah National University in Nablus, told Al-Monitor that the boycott came in response to Trump's decision on Jerusalem, as the US government funds the competition and covers the ticket costs of the participating teams, their training expenses, other logistics and hotel accommodations.

Hattab explained that the schools' refusal to participate in the competition “rejects Trump's decision on Jerusalem, which is a violation of international law. It also aims to convey the message to Washington that its conditional support and threats to cut support for Palestine are rejected.”

Last year, An-Najah National University participated in the competition, which focused on refugees and conflicts over cultural heritage. This year, Hattab said, the competition focuses on border disputes and military border conflicts.

Hattab added, “We teach our students integrity, honesty and international law principles, so we refuse to take part in a competition funded by a government that violates international law and refuses to recognize the rights of our people. It would be contrary to our values.”

He called on the international teams participating in the competition to reject Trump's decision and work to uphold international law.

Palestinians are embracing such symbolic acts of defiance to the United States regardless of their potentially limited impact. In the city of Jericho, located in the southern West Bank and famous for palm growing and date production, the boycott took another form. The Palm Farmers Cooperative Association of Jericho announced Dec. 16 it would boycott a project funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The project was supposed to benefit 40 palm farms in the governorate.

Mamoun al-Jasser, the head of the association, told Al-Monitor that the boycotted project was worth $5 million and was scheduled to be implemented beginning in 2018 and run over the course of three years. He added that it was supposed to replace the manual fertilization of palm trees with electronic fertilizer injectors.

He said, “The association held a meeting on Nov. 21, 2017, with USAID representatives to discuss the project’s implementation mechanisms, knowing that it was to be launched in early 2018, but Trump's decision on Jerusalem led us to reject the project altogether.”

Jasser added, “After the United States decided to oppose us and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, it was unthinkable for us to give such a humane impression about the United States and show that it was helping Palestinians out or that we were happy with such assistance. It was unthinkable for us to allow USAID representatives to visit our farms, raise the US flag and convey a beautiful image to the world at the expense of our national rights.”

Jasser confirmed that boycotting the USAID project, which was supposed to improve production and digitize the fertilization process, would not affect the date palm sector in Palestine. “Our farms are producing dates without any assistance because we depend on ourselves. The US project will not affect our production, which amounted this year to 7.5 million kilograms [16.5 million pounds] that were exported to 23 countries, including France, South Africa, Britain and the Gulf states,” he said.

He noted that the association sent a letter to all cooperative and agricultural associations and relevant nongovernmental organizations to boycott and reject US funding in response to the US decision on Jerusalem, and several associations have complied.

Palestinians have been receiving inconsistent US support since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1993. This help, which varies from one year to another, includes support for the government treasury, infrastructure projects, security assistance and support for Palestinian civil society organizations. But ever since 2012, when Palestine was granted the status of nonmember observer state at the United Nations, this support has significantly shrunk.

As part of the boycott campaign against, doctors, pharmacists and dentists syndicates announced Dec. 8 the boycott of US products, medicines and equipment and their replacement with products coming from Arab and friendly European companies.

Nizam Najib, the head of the Palestinian Doctors Syndicate, told Al-Monitor, “The decision to boycott US medicines and products comes in support of the Palestinian rights and positions against the Trump decision on Jerusalem. The names of US companies and medicines have been sent to doctors so as not to have them prescribed to patients.”

About $50 million worth of US medicines and products are imported to the Palestinian territories on a yearly basis, Najib said.

He added that the health syndicates called on their Arab and Islamic counterparts to take similar actions. The Egyptian Pharmacists Syndicate announced Dec. 8 that it would consider the boycott of US medicines.

Moutassem Asia, the deputy head of the Palestinian Dentists Syndicate, told Al-Monitor that the doctors, pharmacists and dentists syndicates, in cooperation with Jordanian health syndicates, decided to boycott US scientific conferences in protest against Trump’s decision.

Asia said that on Dec. 27, “the Jordanian Dental Association called off a joint international conference that was to be held [in March] with the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association.” The conference, which will be hosted for the first time in the Dead Sea region in Jordan, will not include any US sponsorship or participation, as the US association has been informed.

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