Thursday, July 22, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
The Olympia Food Co-op announced last week that no more Israeli products will be sold at its two grocery stores.
But such projects have recently become more widespread, especially among students - although most divestment decisions by student bodies are not implemented on the colleges' management levels.
Last week, the board of directors of the Olympia Food Co-op in Washington state decided that no more Israeli products will be sold at its two grocery stores in the city.
"We met last Thursday for the board members meeting and a pretty large group - about 40 people - presented the boycott project and answered our questions," Rob Richards, a board member, told Haaretz. "A couple of board members were concerned about what will be the financial effect on the organization, but it's minimal. For me personally there is a moral imperative that goes beyond any financial concern. So we decided to adopt the boycott which went into effect the next day."
Asked whether the boycott includes all products made in Israel, or only in settlements, Richards explained: "As far as I know - it concerns any Israeli products. We exempted "Peace Oil" - it's a joint product produced by the Palestinian farmers. Any product that is made by the company that works to improve the conditions of the Palestinians will be exempted."
Richards says the decision drew no protests.
"There was very little feedback from the staff that was against the boycott, but it seemed as minority opinion. We have two members on the board from the Jewish community who were supportive of the boycott - it's pretty progressive town. I know that's not universal at the Jewish community."
There is a list of conditions that will lead to the end of the boycott, he says.
"I am trying to be realistic - the Olympia Food Co-Op boycott is not going to change the Israeli policy, but I believe that these small drops will eventually have an effect. I would like to see more co-ops joining the boycott and more voices involved," he added.
It is probably no coincidence that Olympia is the hometown of the International Solidarity Movement activist Rachel Corrie who was killed seven years ago in Gaza - a Caterpillar bulldozer ran over her as she tried to prevent demolition of a Palestinian house. Last month, the student body of Evergreen State College in Olympia, where she studied, passed two resolutions which called for the college foundation "to divest from companies that profit from Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine," and the second one called to ban the Caterpillar company equipment from campus.
"The fact that it is the home town of Rachel Corrie's parents and that it is represented by Rep Brian Baird (who has been to Gaza and is outspoken against Israel) makes this ripe for issues," said Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi of The Israel Project, a pro-Israel organization. "So does the fact that it does not have a very organized pro-Israel community. This went under the radar screen at a time when most groups were focused on Iran sanctions and other macro issues. It is clear that the people who voted on this did not hear both sides of the issues. What is needed is education on facts."
An Israeli diplomatic source told Haaretz that the boycott issue is being checked, and although it seems like a marginal incident. The source added that "we are concerned about every attempt to delegitimize Israel."
The Olympia Food Co-Op boycott is only a tiny part of an effort that the BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions) movement is mounting on U.S. companies. On Monday, Jewish Voice for Peace activists planned to attend the TIAA-CREF annual meeting the company headquarters in New York City to deliver thousands of signatures calling on the company to divest its money from Caterpillar, Elbit, Motorola and some other companies, that, as JVP puts it, "profit from the violation of international law through home demolitions, the destruction of life sustaining orchards, the construction of roads and transit that only Israelis can use, the killing of civilians by drones, and many other injustices."
In some places the mainstream Jewish community has reacted vigorously against boycott attempts, but many Israel supporters are worried that the battle "might be already lost at the campuses."
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Corrado's, a large family-owned supermarket, in Clifton, NJ, agreed to stop selling "Jordan Valley" dried dates--Product of Israel. This happened after repeated complaints to two of the younger owner/family members. It definitely helps to be a regular customer to have some say and the possible threat of widespread boycott. It is interesting to note that I had "help" from some of the employees who were from the Middle East who shared my opinions but was too "afraid" to challenge the management. In the end, the Corrados were quite gracious about removing the Israelil products. Sadly, they told me that the wholesaler of the "Made in Israel" products was a Palestinian Arab. Sigh.
Dennis Y. Loh, MD. CNRI (Creative Nonviolent Resistance against Injustice)
Monday, July 5, 2010
IKEA furnishing the occupation
Swedish Radio's correspondent in Israel, Cecilia Udden, explained that she was moving to the Palestinian city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank and asked the staff at IKEA Israel if her furniture could be delivered there. She reported that behind the store's counter was a huge map of Israel that showed no boundaries for the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, or the Syrian Golan Heights. Although IKEA's cost of transport is calculated according to distance, to Udden's surprise, transport to Ramallah was not possible. However, the store did inform her that furniture could be delivered to various Israeli settlements throughout the occupied West Bank.
Ove Bring, a professor of international law, explained to Swedish online magazine Stockholm News that IKEA's policies discriminate against Palestinians. In addition, the shipping policies violate the company's code of conduct, which is published on its website ("IWAY Standard" [PDF]).
IKEA stated in Udden's report that because it relies on local transport companies for deliveries it is bound by local rules. However, Bring challenged the company's assertion and stated that IKEA must examine whether the transport companies are truly unable to deliver to all customers who request the products. Indeed, when Udden insisted on an answer from the transportation company about why her furniture could not be delivered to Ramallah, she was informed that the Israeli military prohibits the deliveries to customers in Palestinian communities in the occupied West Bank.
In its historic 2004 advisory opinion, the International Court of Justice emphasized the illegality of activity that normalizes Israel's illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Indeed, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Wiesenthal Center -- which is building a Museum of Tolerance on a historic Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem -- told the California-based Jewish weekly J. that the opening of an IKEA store in Israel "will be another chink in the attempts that are still out there to boycott Israel" (""IKEA's 1st Israeli store to open in spring," 12 January 2001).
Ironically, before the opening of an IKEA store in Israel in 2001, the retailer was threatened with boycott by the Wiesenthal Center because the company's founder, Ingvar Kamprad, was a member of the fascist New Swedish Movement in the 1940s. The Wiesenthal Center also suspected IKEA of complying with the Arab League boycott of Israel because it appeared to avoid commercial involvement in Israel despite possible opportunities. In a December 1994 letter to the Wiesenthal Center, IKEA President Anders Moberg stated that IKEA had not participated in the Arab League boycott and that company was in the process of investigating the possibility of opening an IKEA store in Israel.
Today IKEA's empire boasts 300 stores in 35 countries, including two stores in Israel; the company intends to open a third store in Haifa in 2012. The IKEA brand survived the revelations of its founder's links to fascism during his youth and the company demonstrated its sensitivity to a possible consumer boycott.
In yet another irony, the boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel movement is already mobilizing in Sweden. At the end of June, the Swedish Dockworkers Union began a week-long blockade of goods to and from Israel. The action by the SDU was in response to a call by Palestinian trade unionists in the context of Israel's three-year blockade of the Gaza Strip and its attack on the Mavi Marmaraaid ship on 31 May. In this context, it remains to be seen whether IKEA will rectify the racist policies of its store in Israel before such practices inspire a new consumer boycott threat.
Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.