Shopping as a statement

Sure, when you buy a T-shirt with a print on it, it can be a statement. When you chose to buy organic, or from farmer’s markets, it can be perceived as a statement. This is true wherever you live.

Here, shopping is a somewhat different experience for the ones that would like to be environmentally savvy or politically correct. Here, every purchase feels as a vote. A vote pro or contra. A vote for one or the other.

It gets even more complicated being nice to the people and the planet.

Let’s pretend one wants to eat mostly organic. But one is also opposed to settlements. Or to teenagers working long days for 10 dollars a day. Let’s pretend one can not read Hebrew. Life will get very complicated…

We spent a couple of evenings with the map of Israel on the table and a long list of producers next to it. The CSA we wanted to get a weekly vegetable box from had several partners we were considering buying goods from. But we wanted to make sure that the honey, goat cheese and fruits came from Green Line Israel, and not from settlements.

When it comes to daily shopping, things are not so easy. The water I buy at the Arab side of town will not be accepted by my Haredi friends in the park. And even though the fruits and vegetables I buy at that side of town have stickers in Hebrew on them, my friends will not share in the fun. They only eat food I buy on the Israeli side.

Oh, the irony! I want to buy from the Arab guy across the street to help him make a living. He sells Israeli goods coming from a settlement. Where Palestinian teenagers are employed long days without a contract, insurance and severely underpaid. But if I buy there, my food will not be trusted by my friends. Even when the exact same brand is sold in the Israeli shop down the road!

When we need a new equipment or appliance, I hesitate to buy it here when I can postpone the purchase until back in Europe. Taxes paid here will support the local government policies concerning housing newcomers in the occupied territories. Something I do not want to chip in for.

Alright, alright, I lost you: when even shopping become political it does get kind of boring. I agree. It’s not as if I would buy everything fair trade in the Netherlands, either.

Sometimes living here is just one big Catch 22. But it is also an eye opener. It is educational beyond words. Next time when I decide to buy the cheapo cherry tomatoes in the Netherlands, coming from “Israel”, I will think twice. I now know I am actually supporting child labour. Or settlements. Or both.

That’s more in a tomato than anyone could bargain for.


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