Monday, March 28, 2011
‘BIG Day’ to buy Israeli products set for March 30
A Los Angeles-based organization is calling on supporters of the State of Israel to head out to their local malls and grocery stores on March 30 and go shopping.
Celebrating Israel and purchasing everything with a “made in Israel” label on it can serve as an antidote to an international boycott campaign being pushed by a coalition of anti-Israel organizations, said StandWithUs, a 10-year-old pro-Israel NGO. The group, which has chapters in several American cities, the United Kingdom and Israel, is urging schools, synagogues, community organizations and individuals to participate in its BIG (Buy Israeli Goods) Day.
“We need to show the boycotters that their efforts are doomed. Let the boycotters know that when they call for boycotts of even one or two stores or products, they will face a much larger movement to buy Israeli goods,” said StandWithUs co-founder and CEO Roz Rothstein.
“We are telling people to go to their local stores, request the exact Israeli products being targeted and buy them out. Let store managers know they should keep Israeli products well stocked on the shelves.”
Opponents of Israel are promoting a very different message. Groups like End the Occupation and CODEPINK are asking shoppers to avoid Israeli products. They are also calling on their sympathizers to push for a divestment from Israel as well as a boycott of academic and cultural exchanges.
The March 30 date corresponds to Palestinian Land Day, when six Arab Israelis were killed in 1976 during protests against government confiscation of land. According to the Global BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) Movement website, “the BDS national committee (BNC) is calling on you to unite in your different capacities and struggles to join the Global BDS Day of Action on Land Day, 30 March 2011, in solidarity with the Palestinian people’s right to self determination on their ancestral land.”
Originally launched in 2005 by a number of Palestinian organizations and controlled through the national committee, the effort has gone international. The BDS website features video of past protests in England, Spain, Sweden and Canada. Protesters, employing street theatre, song and dance, have targeted Toronto’s Mountain Equipment Co-op for stocking Israeli-made merchandise and Chapters Indigo, for the support of “lone soldiers” by Chapters principals Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman. Protesters have also targeted the Aroma Espresso Bar, a franchise of an Israeli-based cafe chain.
StandWithUs believes far more people support retailers who stock Israeli products than those who want a boycott. On Nov. 30, 2010, Rothstein noted, protesters in Brooklyn, N.Y., stood outside a large pharmacy and urged shoppers to avoid Israeli products. StandWithUs, in conjunction with the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce, countered the boycott by mobilizing supporters to enter the store and purchase every Israel-made product they could find.
“Delighted store managers said it was their best shopping day and promised to keep their shelves stocked with the targeted products,” StandWithUs stated in a news release.
A similar tactic has been used in Toronto. Before Passover two years ago, Not in Our Name, a small Jewish group that supports a boycott, marched outside a downtown LCBO. Dozens of Israel supporters, responding to a mobilization effort co-ordinated by the Canada-Israel Committee’s (CIC) Buycott Israel program, countered that demonstration by purchasing the store’s entire inventory of 150 cases of Israeli wine. Last October, when protesters demonstrated at Aroma’s Bloor Street cafe, sources told The CJN there was no effect on its business.
Sara Saber-Freedman, CIC’s executive vice-president, said “buycott” campaigns originated in Canada and have spread worldwide. “The broad concept is that the power of the pocketbook counters the boycott effort. The message needs to be that when you target Israeli goods for boycott, the consequence will be more sales, not less.
“It flips the effort to delegitimize Israel from something that is negative for Israel and attaches a negative consequence to boycotters – the opposite of what was intended.”
The CIC fully supports the StandWithUs campaign, Saber-Freedman said.
Rothstein said opponents of the boycott can visit http://www.buyisraelgoods.org for information about Israeli consumer products available by region. The site’s Canadian section lists 22 categories of merchandise from baby and child apparel to women’s swimming attire. Dozens of merchants in the Toronto area are cited, along with several in other cities including Vancouver and Montreal.
Rothstein believes the boycott effort has backfired. “I believe they think they are making a difference. Really, what they are accomplishing with their hostile campaign is to coalesce the pro-Israel, pro-peace community into doing counter-campaigns. It becomes clear, when they do these flash mob dances at stores, that they do not advocate peaceful coexistence. They do this because it’s their way of going on the attack and working to isolate and demonize Israel,” she said.