by Yahia Abu Zakaria | Palestine Chronicle | January 20, 2003
STOCKHOLM - A group of Swedish luminaries and public figures called for a boycott of Israeli goods produced in occupied Palestinian territories, in a show of protest at the Jewish state's policy of continued aggressions against the innocent Palestinians.
In an article published in Sweden's largest daily on Saturday, January 18, a group of 73 Swedish public figures urged the boycott as a means to pressure Israel into dismantling the Jewish settlements and alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people living under the relentless Israeli occupation.
"We call on citizens, non-governmental organizations, unions, consumer cooperatives, political parties and companies to boycott all goods from the illegal Israeli settlements," the group was quoted by Agence France- Presse (AFP) as writing in Dagens Nyheter.
All Jewish settlements, including those labeled by the Israeli government as “illegal”, are considered illegal by the international community according to many UN resolutions.
"To buy and sell goods from the occupied territories is to actively support the illegal Israeli occupation," they said, adding: "It is also a crime against international law."
The group, which included Left Party leader Gudrun Schyman as well as writers, publishers, doctors and professors, urged the international community to act since the Israelis and Palestinians have proven "unable to resolve the conflict on their own".
They called for a halt to the European Union's free trade agreement with Israel.
"The agreement contains statutes on respecting human rights and democracy. As long as Israel fails to show respect for life, freedom of movement and property, the trade deal should be suspended," they said.
The call has been earlier made by many prominent figures here, one of whom was Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh.
Lindh, a member of the Social Democrats, called on the European Union member states in their April meeting in Brussels to cut relations with Israel in protest to the repressive practices of its occupation forces against the Palestinians.
Also, Sweden’s young Social Democrats pressed the need to take a legal action against Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for war crimes violations.
While the group acknowledged that "both sides must respect human rights, the Geneva convention and international law", it stressed that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip "represents a permanent violence and a crime against international law that has continued for more than three decades."
"The occupation is the root cause that triggered the Palestinian Intifada," or uprising against Israeli occupation in 2000, it said.
The statement was also signed by the Swedish ambassador to Germany Carl Tham and Archbishop KG Hammar.
Tham under attack
But the move inflamed the anger of the Swedish opposition parties who called for the resignation of Tham after he voiced support for the boycott of Israeli goods produced in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Christian Democratic Party, the conservative Moderate Party and the Liberal Party all protested Tham's involvement in the article.
"I believe Carl Tham should resign as Swedish ambassador to Germany," Jan Bjoerklund, deputy chairman of the Liberal Party, told Swedish news agency TT.
"Either he is speaking on behalf of the foreign ministry or, as ambassador, is running his own foreign policy. Now it is up to Foreign Minister Anna Lindh and Prime Minister Goeran Persson to say whether they agree with Carl Tham," Christian Democratic leader Alf Svensson said.
Moderate Party leader Bo Lundgren concurred, saying he never supported Tham's appointment as ambassador.
"A Swedish ambassador should not make these kinds of statements. That is the government's business. My earlier belief that he should not have been named ambassador was correct," he said.
Lindh told Swedish television news program Aktuellt that she did not support the idea of a boycott against Israel, which she said would make efforts to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians even more difficult.
But she didn’t criticize Tham, saying: "Of course ambassadors have the right to speak out on foreign policy issues".
Carl Tham told Swedish radio Ekot he did not understand the criticism and the calls for his resignation.
"That would mean that as soon as a civil servant expresses himself the government would have to give its approval. That is unconstitutional and flies in the face of all reasonable practice," he said.