Practical steps to boycott Israel 14Mar13 March 14, 2013

by Zeinab Merhi      -     Al Akhbar    -     1 March 2013

000_Par2633203The Campaign to Boycott Supporters of Israel in Lebanon held its first press conference on 28 February 2013 at the Lebanese Press Syndicate in Beirut to answer questions related to their boycott platform.

Questions addressed issues like the purpose and effectiveness of the boycott; alternatives to boycotted entities; and the fate of those employed locally in companies that support Israel.

More specifically, some asked whether or not the boycott of performers who take part in events in Israel constitutes a snub to “culture and modernism,” as opponents of the boycott like to maintain. Others wondered about the viability of implementing the boycott in the “Information Age” since so many spheres seem open to all, even Israel.

The conference’s Q&A session tried to debunk such myths and refute claims about the inability of individuals to boycott the state of Israel.

When the governments of the Arab League member states enforced a systematic boycott of Israel and the businesses that supported it at the end of the 1940s, the Jewish state incurred losses of up to $96 billion until the early ‘90s. As a result of the Camp David Accords and other pacts with Israel, some Arab states withdrew their public boycotts, weakening the official pan-Arab stance against Israel.

What is the aim of the boycott today? Should we proceed to individually boycott everyone and everything that supports Israel?

The Campaign’s answer is simple: ideally, yes. The campaign further advises to adopt the following tactic: “Boycott wherever possible.” In difficult circumstances, create some sort of ranking scale for boycott targets of “worst to least bad.”

What are the determining criteria of “worst to least bad”? At the top of the list, according to the Campaign, are companies that have built facilities on territory that has been “cleansed” of Palestinians.

For instance, the Coca-Cola Company signed an agreement with the Israeli government in 2002 to establish a plant in Kiryat Gat, a settlement built on the ruins of two depopulated Palestinian villages, Faluja and Iraq al-Manshiyya.

Furthermore, the beverage company donates to the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, which promotes Jewish immigration to Palestine. It is worth noting that Coca-Cola was absent from Arab markets from 1968 to 1991 due to the Arab boycott.

For its part, the Swiss multinational company Nestlé built its most important facility in Sderot, a settlement built on the lands of Najd, a Palestinian village that was ethnically cleansed in 1948.

Such boycott criteria applies to firms that acquire Israeli companies or stakes in them, a process that helps inject money into Israeli bank accounts. This is the case with firms like General Electric and Johnson & Johnson.

The boycott can be indeed effective, as is evident with Burger King, whose sales slumped by 50 percent in Saudi Arabia after the fast food chain opened an outlet in the illegal Israeli settlement Ma’ale Adumim.

Likewise, McDonald’s sales plummeted in Muscat, Oman by 65 percent in January 2003, while campaigns against Starbucks’ support for Israel led the American coffee chain to shut down all of its stores in Israel in 2003, citing “operational challenges.”

What about the boycott of certain performers? This issue is often controversial as it draws accusations of obscurantism toward the Campaign.

Regardless, the Campaign maintains that performing in Israel contributes to whitewashing its crimes and promoting Israel as a “beacon” of culture.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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