As halal grocery stores across the country are reveling in the midst of the Ramadan buying frenzy, a concern on many Muslims' minds are the origins of the Ramadan dates that are carried in the stores. Some come from California or Saudi Arabia, but others marketed under the name Jordan Valley are from Israel.

Israeli date imports in the US are valued at $51 million per year.

After the 1967 Six-Day War when Israel captured the Jordan Valley from Jordan, tracts of land were taken from Palestinian farmers and allocated to settlements and military camps. According to the Inter Press Agency report, the Jordan Valley holds 28.3 percent of the West Bank's land, and is 'the largest single Palestinian territory under full Israeli military and administrative rule, classified as Area C since the 1990s.”

Only 13 percent of the valley is under Palestinian rule, known as Area A. In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights.

Hani is a Palestinian American who lives in Northern Virginia. He often shops at local halal grocery stores. “When I saw the [Israeli] items on the shelf, I asked for the manager and I brought it to his attention. Weeks later the remain on the shelf. As a Palestinian and a customer, I find this offensive….when non-Muslims are boycotting Israeli goods to support Palestine and the largest Muslim grocery store sells these goods, it's an insult,” says Hani. He says that they sell Israeli dates—labeled as Jordan Valley—and pickles that are made there too. His friend who grew up in Jerusalem and reads Hebrew picked out a can of Galil pickled cucumbers, which is sometimes not marked as an Israeli product.

The manager of the store says that often they do not know where the products originate from and that he checked in the store but did not see that brand of dates in the store currently.

Hani just returned from the border of the West Bank and Jordan where he works with a relief organization. Everyone in his contingent entered West bank, all his American colleagues, except him. He was stopped and interviewed for six humiliating hours and then turned away. His American passport could not give him access to see his mother and the rest of the family. “It reminds me of what the Nazi[s] used to do. They have a number for me when I go, because I was born in Palestine. They like to play games and harass people like me.”

The last time he saw his mother was in 2009, when he entered through Egypt. “There is no other way for us to get back to the West Bank,” he says. The Egyptian government gives diaspora Palestinians a 3 day notice in which they have to book tickets to enter through Gaza. Every time someone enters, there is no guarantee that they will be able to leave as the border can close indefinitely.

Hani's family is from Beit Lahia, a city in northern Gaza. He says that Israeli companies come and buy strawberries from there and sells them under two different packages, according to where the BDS movement is stronger, such as in Europe. The product marketed there say  'product of Palestine'. “It's a scam…..look at their website it says Israel…nowhere does it say Palestine. They are just using the Palestine thing for marketing.” Here is an extensive report that lists companies that take Palestine goods and label them Israeli.

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Sometimes the packaging says 'grown by Palestinian farmers' and this refers to Palestinian 'slave' laborers on Israeli plantations. According to the Associated Press,  Israel has played down the impact of the BDS campaign by Palestinian activists, but it has turned into a harsh reality for the economy. Recently Oxfam, the international aid organization and their former ambassador, actress Scarlett Johansson, were in the news over the showdown over Sodastream, another Israeli company operating in the settlement. Public pressure forced Oxfam to drop Johansson after she became the model for Sodastream.

Inminds.com of the U.K. ran a boycott campaign against Israeli dates and states that “Hadiklaim, the Israeli Date Growers Cooperative, which includes illegal settler plantations in the Jordan Valley, sells 70% of all Israeli dates. Its brand names include Jordan River, King Solomon, Tamara Barhi Dates, Desert Diamond, Rapunzel, Bomaja, Shams and Delilah.”

Indus Foods in Silver Spring, MD, owner Raja Hamid says that although the price and quality is great, he doesn't carry the Jordan River brand dates as the customers demand California or Saudi medjool dates, not Israeli. “We tell our suppliers, don't give them to us,” says Hamid. Almost 30 percent of his date customers have made it known to him that his stores should not carry them.

January 2014 saw intensive BDS activity in academia. Following the American Studies Association (ASA) adoption of a BDS resolution in December 2013. These calls to action recognize that Israeli academic institutions (mostly state controlled) and the majority of Israeli academics contribute directly to the Israeli occupation and apartheid or are complicit through their silence. The Palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel is inspired by 'the historic role played by people of conscience in the international community of scholars and intellectuals who have shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in their struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through diverse forms of boycott.'

Two unconstitutional bills were introduced in the state capitol of Maryland designed to limit First Amendment rights in Maryland universities and college campuses by targeting student groups that participate in the campaign for boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS), according to the Maryland Chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations

SB 647 which aimed to restrict activities of campus student groups which engage in peaceful boycotts against universities and colleges of other countries, and prohibited peaceful dissent by withholding state funding to Maryland's institutions of higher learning was defeated.

“They are trying, [restricting] commentary on Israel- they fear this is next thing. [BDS] a huge thing. It is becoming more mainstream, specifically for goods made in the settlement,” says Hani.

This week the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA voted 310 to 303 to divest from three US companies that profit from Israel's military occupation of Palestinian lands.  After 10 years' worth of effort on this issue, commissioners passed a resolution to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions.

When people of other faiths are recognizing and boycotting, then it pains Palestinians to see Muslims supporting the occupation, even if it is out of ignorance. Muslim business owners and consumers must make an effort to learn more about BDS and join in the movement.

A version of this article was printed in The Muslim Link, after which I received phone calls from store owners in my area promising more ethical purchasing and awakened consciousness of the suffering of their Palestinian brothers and sisters. If you see an occupation based product in your local Muslim store, speak up and let the management know.

Further Reading: 6 Things You Buy That Help Support Israeli Brutality

24 Responses

  1. Susan

    ALLAHU AKBAR! IT IS A NO-BRAINER THAT MUSLIMS, INDEED EVERYONE WHO VALUES HUMAN RIGHTS, SHOULD BE UNITED ON THIS. IT IS INCUMBENT UPON MUSLIMS TO TAKE THE LEAD HERE. YALLAH! EVERYONE! SHARE THIS ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA OUTLETS!!!

    BTW, PALESTINIANS ARE SPECIAL, MA SHA ALLAH. IMAGINE A PEOPLE AND CULTURE THAT EVOLVED AND BENEFITED FROM EXPOSURE TO MOST OF THE 25 PROPHETS MENTIONED IN THE QUR’AN TRAVERSING THE LAND OF MILK, HONEY AND ZAATAR!

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      • Susan

        I utilize the caps to emphasize that our Brothers and Sisters in Palestine have been persecuted under a brutal military occupation for 65 years and we, the Ummah, are not doing enough to seek justice and liberate them, wa Allahu ta’ala ‘alam.

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      • Hyde

        And how shall we liberate them ? After 65 years, what plans do we have ?

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      • Susan

        Through our intentions, words, actions, approvals and, this case, disapprovals ie. supporting the BDS movement. We can also use Social Media to leverage support, as was done by Egypt and other countries leading to the Arab Spring. It’s all a process and Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala knows if we are doing our best. Another way to help is sponsoring an orphan in Palestine through Islamic Relief USA. Engagement in Interfaith and Dialogue Groups is also a way to inform public opinion.

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      • Susan

        Did you read the article, Brother Hyde? It states that Israel’s “loathsome policies” will turn public opinion, including American Jewish opinion, against it. The BDS movement brings these policies to the fore.

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      • Hyde

        Many American Jews, especially the young ones are already are cutting through the Israeli facade, but BDS and etc are not for long term.

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    • Heba Sh.

      I agree with everything the article said….

      But our dear sister Susan commented that “Palestinians are special”…because they had 25 prophets come to them

      I dont think where you are from makes you special. If thats the case, then all Saudis from Mecca and Medina are special too….which Im sure you can agree its an absurd notion

      To say someone is good or bad, simply because of the area of land they are from is the very definition of racism.

      We are good, bad or special based on our actions and what is in our hearts, not because of where we happened to be born

      by the way…..the reason racism is wrong is because no one chooses the color of their skin or where they were born.

      Palestinians are a group of people that are oppressed and deserve the right to peace, security, food and water and the other necessities of life just like everyone else

      Dont get emotional….lets use our logic ….we can make a greater impact that way

      ;-)

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      • Susan

        Sister Heba,

        The Prophet Muhammad, sal Allahu ‘alayhi wa salam said:

        “A good friend and a bad friend are like a perfume-seller and a blacksmith: The perfume-seller might give you some perfume as a gift, or you might buy some from him, or at least you might smell its fragrance. As for the blacksmith, he might singe your clothes, and at the very least you will breathe in the fumes of the furnace.”

        (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Hadith 314)

        The Palestinians have smelled a lot of sweet fragrances.

        And so have the Saudis, some of whom embrace their unique heritage to become our Noble Mashayakh of the Haramayn. Others, like some Palestinians, breathe the fumes of the furnace.

        What I am talking about is culture. A culture suffused with the Sunnah of the Prophets, the best people Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala created. Are we racist if we put our children in an Islamic school because we want them to benefit from an islamic environment?

        Lest we forget, too, regarding Palestine. It will be the epicenter of the End of Days, wa Allahu ta’ala ‘alam.

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      • Heba Sh.

        Dear Susan

        I appreciate your zeal in wanting to take up a worthy cause. And lets not forget that helping people who are oppressed (whether palestinian or chinese or whomever) is a worthy cause indeed

        All I am saying is that when we get emotional in our thinking we say and do things that are incorrect and simply not true.

        Like saying that Palestinians are special…where is the proof for that?

        You are more than welcome to say that in your opinion Palestinians are some of the most intelligent, warm, generous and hospitable people.

        By the way…I am palestinian myself

        :-)

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      • Susan

        Ya Ukhti Heba,

        I just came from volunteering in Palestinian refugee camps, where millions languish and feel forgotten. Yes, I am emotional about the plight of the Palestinians. I do not mean to say that anyone is more special due to nationality. However, Palestine is like a child with special needs, who we love no more or less than our other children, but must commit to giving more attention and care.

        There is also a unique Noor and Barakah about the land in spite of the occupation. It is Al Araadi Al Muqadasa and to walk through it rolling hills is sublime.

        I believe we will be asked about what we did for Palestine on the Day of Justice. We can at least keep it in our Duua’.

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  2. Waleed Ahmed

    Great work Hena…its nice to see some traction on BDS in the Muslim community; support and awareness for it is surprisingly low. Glad to hear muslim store owners responded well to your article : )

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  3. docf

    “When people of other faiths are recognizing and boycotting, then it pains Palestinians to see Muslims supporting the occupation, even if it is out of ignorance”

    Interesting comment. I’ve seen people of Palestine embrace every other culture/ideology except Islam, but when it comes down to appeal they want to use Islam?

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    • Mike Smith

      What is exactly your point? Why are you using such terms as “they” and making these generalizations like you know every single Palestinian? I don’t care whether you’re Palestinian or not. But you’re making it seem like the Palestinian ethnicity is the only one whose Muslims are not the best spiritually and religiously. There’s good and bad Muslims in every single race and ethnicity. And she’s probably referring to the general Palestinian Muslim population.

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  4. Heba Sh.

    Dear Susan

    I respect you for giving your time and effort to help people in need

    May Allah shower you and your family with blessings, forgiveness, love and Mercy

    Indeed you are right. Allah will ask us what we did for oppressed and all people in need regardless of nationality whether Palestinian or Syrian or Sri Lankan

    Allah will also ask us what we did for our family, relatives, friends and neighbors

    And you are right….the least we can do is make dua for people in need

    I was not trying to belittle the severity of the condition of the Palestinian people

    But I want to relate to you a story

    I go to this local mosque here in downtown Toronto. I go for Friday Prayers.

    This mosque has no imam….instead volunteers give the Friday Sermon. Every week we have different brothers of different nationality deliver the sermon

    Now get this…When a Egyptian brother gives the sermon, he will highlight the plight of the Egyptian people and ask for dua for them (he wont mention anyone else)

    When the Syrian brother gives a sermon….he will make a special plea for the suffering of the Syrian people (and indeed they are suffering), but he too does not mention any other group

    When the Pakistani brother gives the sermon, he will mention floods happening in Pakistan and ask for donations, and he wont mention any other group

    Do you see what is wrong the picture

    Everyone is focused on the suffering of only one group…to the exclusion of others

    I am 32 years old and attend the mosque regularly

    And in my 32 years, have never heard anyone mention the plight of people (Muslims or non muslims) suffering in countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Sudan etc

    Everyone just focuses on their own ethnicity it seems. :-(

    The Quran says that the Prophet was “[And We have not sent you forth but as a mercy to mankind. ] (Al-Anbiyaa’: 107)

    Not just to Arabs…Not just to middle easterners…. but to everyone

    I grew up in Dubai, So I grew up with being told about the Palestinian cause all the time. But no one told me about the suffering of people in other countries

    Why is that?

    You will see Arabs being passionate about the problems of Arab brothers, but not really have any attachment to the problems of people in India for example

    Pakistanis and Indians may focus more on the “Desi” group

    And so on

    If this is not racism, then I dont know what is

    by the way….The people of Palestine have been suffering for way too long….so maybe they do deserve some extra attention, love and care

    All i am saying is that we need a shift in mindset to stop seeing people as their nationalities….to remove the lines of tribes and countries and all just be as one body as the Prophet mentioned

    All I am saying is that if we are attached to the suffering of a certain ethnic group than others, then we need to re-evaluate our thinking

    And Allah Knows our best

    But again….i love and respect you for what you are doing. You are doing way more than i have ever done

    I wish for you jannah

    :-)

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    • ZAI

      Afrin.
      Much respect to you Sr.Heba.
      You said it all perfectly.
      100% agree.

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    • Susan

      That is so wise, sweet and gracious of you, Sister Heba. I love you for the sake of Allah. May He Al Jal wa Al ‘Alaa guide us all.

      Ramadan Mubarak!!!

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    • saeed khan

      Alhamdulillah for an excellent post. You are correct we need to view ourselves as one ummah and not separate entities. These borders that divide us are fake and were imposed not by Allah’s sharia but by greedy colonialists who were looking after their own interests. Their existence should be a continuous reminder to us as to what was there before they were forced upon us and national identities, flags and anthems imposed upon us. Before these dark times we had the khilafah and the khalifs who looked after the affairs of the ummah. It is only by returning to this system and re-establishing the Islamic ruling can we even dream of solving any of the problems we face. Without the khilafah state we are like headless chicken running around with a thousand different agendas fighting primarily amongst ourselves. The ummah needs a leader and the only authority in Islam which can unify the ummah is the Khalif. The question we face is how do we re-establish the khilafah? Which scholar has performed the ijtihad necessary to bring it back into existence?

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  5. MJ

    It annoys me to see how people can be arguing about this and trying their best to debate people and correct people them until they think they’ve resolved the situation. The main point here is that a group of people, the Palestinians are suffering greatly, and they need to be helped. They are humans, and we should be trying to help anybody when we can. Second, most of them are Muslims, and helping Muslims is even a bigger duty. And also, yeah, obviously it doesn’t matter whether you’re Palestinian or not or where you were born. However, its places like Jerusalem and its surroundings, are far more blessed than any other in the world, right after Mecca and Medina, as many scholars consider Jerusalem to be the third holiest Muslim city. Regardless, they are Muslims, and we should be trying to help them, along with the Syrians, Egyptians, Yemenis, Sri Lankans, Afghanis, etc. Of course, we should be willing to accept construct criticism, but we don’t need to always point out the smallest things from somebody’s comment and detract from the real message. This goes for myself especially as well.

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  6. saeed khan

    The obvious questions which spring to mind after reading this article is will the bds solve the problem? And is it the Islamic solution?

    There are two things which we can all agree on. Firstly Islam is a deen and secondly there is no problem in life that Islam does not address.

    It’s clear from the goals of bds that it’s not there to liberate Palestine. So the goals of bds are not compatible with Islam which calls for the liberation of occupied lands.

    The solution therefore lies elsewhere and it is an obligation on all Muslims to find out what they should be doing to help their brothers and sisters not just in Palestine but everywhere the world.

    At the end of the day it is to Allah we will return and be judged so we owe it to ourselves to look into this matter deeplyand not to be misled by political correctness or fear of being labeled extremists.

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