The recent Gaza War has seen the rebirth of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement in the UK.
You may recall that in July this year, at the beginning of the recent Gaza War, Tesco pledged to remove Dates from its product line as their point of origin stems from the West Bank, and Tesco wrote to all Israeli suppliers requesting a full operational audit of the product life cycle to include a list of ingredients used and details of their origination and locations of where they may be manufactured and packaged, lest they come from the West Bank.
Recently, the BDS movement have continued to focus on supermarkets, and specifically food stuffs. If you wanted an insight into their misguided actions, look no further than the swaths of ‘protesters’ who have descended into Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s stores in Belfast and Birmingham in recent weeks, screaming ‘Pro-Palestinian’ slogans and removing from shelves in an act of blatant vandalism, goods which they claim to be produced, manufactured or have links to Israel. That’s right Israel, not the disputed “occupied territory” of the West Bank, whose products have previously been victim to the BDS movement.
The theme continues with news that a few weeks ago, a Sainsbury’s store in Holborn, Central London decided to clear the shelves of “Israeli” goods as a preventative measure out of fear that they may experience the carnage unleashed by Pro-Palestinians at the Tesco stores in Belfast and Birmingham where protesters stormed the store and trashed it. The problem with this ‘incident’ at Sainsbury’s was that they cleared the shelves of Kosher goods, some of them made in the US, UK and Poland, depriving Kosher observant eaters from following their dietary rules.
By the same token, will the supermarkets, if there is a protest by animal welfare groups remove all foods derived from an animal off the shelf as a precaution? Where does this stop? Depriving a human the opportunity to follow their dietary requirements or eat according to their religious beliefs is blatant discrimination.
With the storming of the supermarkets, all these ‘protesters’ are seeking is attention while also ensuring they and their ilk have another opportunity to spit out their anti-semitic vitriol. If these ‘protesters’ had any brain cells between them, they would as a collective write to the head offices of the supermarkets they are targeting, in this case, Tesco and Sainsbury’s to try and convey their message. Unfortunately, it’s not just the supermarkets that are the target of the BDS movement.
In recent years, we have seen the boycotters adversely affect trade of Israeli businesses before, notably, the Ahava Cosmetics store in London and more recently SodaStream in Brighton, both of which cited operational issues for their eventual closures, and it seems that next in the firing line was Kedem Cosmetics in Manchester.
Kedem Cosmetics has had to endure weeks of ugly, vitriolic protests by Pro-Palestinian supporters who claim the reason they were protesting against the store at the height of the war in Gaza, was because they believed that their products are manufactured in the “occupied territory” of the West Bank, and because they claim that the Israeli government own a shareholding in the company – both claims turned out to be incorrect. But it’s not just about shops for the UK BDS movement.
At a specially convened meeting a few weeks ago, the National Union of Students (NUS) voted for and decided to adopt a policy of BDS against Israel. A NUS spokesperson is quoted as saying “The motion passed by our national executive council commits us to ensuring that, as far as is practical, NUS does not employ or work with companies identified as facilitating Israel’s military capacity, human rights abuses or illegal settlement activity, and to actively cut ties with those that do.” With this motion, one feels that the next academic year will be a tense one for Israeli and Jewish students alike at University Campuses in the UK.
With academia now ticking the BDS boxes, what about culture? The public fallout has been well documented over the Tricycle Theatre refusing to accept funding from the Israeli embassy to showcase the UK Jewish Film Festival (UKJFF) as it has done for the previous eight years, and their subsequent u-turn after the UK Jewish Community rounded on them, coupled with the withdrawing of funds from key sponsors and donors. This may seem like a small victory against the BDS movement, but for many of us, despite their u-turn, the one thing we want we are still waiting for, and that’s an apology from The Tricycle Theatre.
Earlier this summer, The Incubator Theatre Group was prevented from performing their shows in Edinburgh, the Jewish Community stepping in to arrange for them to perform ‘The City’ at venues in Glasgow, Leeds and London. The Incubator Theatre Group’s apparent crime was that it’s partly funded by Israel’s Ministry of Culture. The irony is that this theatre group is based in Jerusalem, working in both East and West Jerusalem enabling Israeli and Palestinian performers to work together.
Just this week, two Israeli film-makers, Yoav Hornung and Niv Shpigel who have directed films due to be shown at the Encounters festival in Bristol in September, have been denied funding to attend the prestigious film festival because the money offered by the Israeli embassy to pay for their travel has been rejected.
And if culture wasn’t enough, they have now gone a step too far by attacking the Queen, yes the Queen! In Bolton, batches of £5 and £10 notes were discovered by shops to contain the slogan “Free Palestine! Boycott Israel!!” either stamped in red, or handwritten in biro across the Queen’s head on the Queen’s currency.
With the relentless boycotters seemingly targeting Israeli companies and institutions at will, I have a few questions to the boycotters in the UK.
1. What is your problem with Israel? If it’s the disputed issue of ‘Occupied Land’, then will you also be boycotting goods from Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey in support of the territory state of Kurdistan? Will you be boycotting goods from Cyprus and Turkey in support of the disputed Northern Cyprus territory? Will you be boycotting goods and services from Pakistan and India in support of the disputed Kashmir territory? Will you be boycotting goods and services from the United Kingdom and Spain in support of the disputed island of Gibraltar?
2. If your problem with Israel is the loss of civilian life during the recent Gaza War, then will you also boycott the Palestinian territories, notably the Gaza Strip which has been the origin of the loss of civilian life on the Israeli side? Will you boycott the UK, US, France, Russia and Australia who had troops fight in the Afghanistan war who unfortunately caused some loss to civilian life, and also Iran, Iraq and Syria where innocent civilians are being killed daily by Islamic terrorists?
3. If your problem is the blockade of the Gaza Strip, then news flash, the Gaza Strip shares borders with two countries, Israel and Egypt. So if you want to boycott Israel because of the blockade, will you also boycott Egypt?
4. If you want to boycott Israel, then why do you never seem to go the whole way? If you really want to now boycott goods and services whose origin is Israel, then will you disable the voicemail and SMS mechanisms from your phone (which was invented, tested and developed in Israel) and delete apps such as Facebook, What’s App, Instagram and Onavo, all of whom have Israeli investment behind them, with the latter being invented in Israel? Not to be outdone, will you bin your PC’s and Laptops which have an Intel processor, or operate using the Windows operating system, as yes, you guessed it both were created and developed in Intel’s and Microsoft’s offices in Israel? Oh, and you will soon have to ditch your iPhones, iPads, iMacs and iPods because Apple will be opening their first sales store in Israel in 2015. That’s just for starters.
5. Would you let Israel affect your career? I ask because for the career minded, you will probably need to make sure that you never work for a company that has an office in Israel, bad news for workers of Coca-Cola, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle and their subsidiaries, to name just a few.
6. What will you do if you indirectly commit murder or genocide by boycotting Israeli goods and services? Let me give you an example: you and your cronies decide to target a well-known Israeli Pharmaceutical company which has clinically tested, developed and now manufacturer a drug which can aid or/and cure certain types of cancers. You successfully win a campaign that the drug cannot be available in the country that you reside, in this case, the UK – this results, sadly in the increase over time of deaths of sufferers, which sadly could affect friends and members of your family – you have participated and have caused indirectly the ‘murder’ of real, innocent civilians – can you and your conscience live with that? By the same token, during the recent Gaza War, many Palestinian civilians were treated at Israel’s Wolfson Institute in Holon, for injuries and medical conditions not connected to the Gaza War – should the Palestinians not have bothered to get the treatment available to them in Israel, instead staying in Gaza where they would not get treated due to lack of medical expertise, which could lead to a deterioration in their health, and possibly even death?
7. Why do you want to boycott a country which has given and contributed so much to the world in terms of its contributions to the arts, sciences and technological fields? Why boycott a country where everyone, irrespective of their religion, race, gender and sexual orientation are treated fairly, equally and can live in harmony and achieve everything they wish to achieve?
8. If you don’t believe me when I state in point 7 above that “everyone, irrespective of their religion, race, gender and sexual orientation are treated fairly” then are you aware of the work of Israeli charities such as, to name but a few, Magen David Adom (MDA) and Save A Child’s Heart (SACH)?
MDA receives minimal government funding. Its lifesaving work in Israel – continuing 24 hours round the clock, 365 days per year – is funded by a combination of voluntary donations from Friends of MDA in 17 countries around the world and payment from patients and hospitals. MDA is Israel’s only medical emergency response and ambulance service. MDA provides its services to all, regardless of race, creed or ethnic affiliation. MDA’s workforce is 90% volunteers working side by side for a common purpose – to save lives.
Save a Child’s Heart (SACH) is an Israeli-based international, non-profit organisation known worldwide for their commitment to saving lives by improving the quality of cardiac care for children from developing countries and creating centres of medical competence in these countries.
Save a Child’s Heart provides life-saving cardiac surgery and other lifesaving procedures at the Wolfson Medical Centre in Holon, Israel. To date, SACH have saved the lives of over 3,000 children from Africa, South America, Europe, Asia, and throughout the Middle East. By mending hearts, regardless of race, religion, gender, nationality, or financial status, they contribute to a more peaceful and productive world; a happier, healthier world, and a better world for all children, and their families.
9. What do you want to achieve with a boycott of Israeli goods? Do you not see how misguided this approach is and how this could deprive and affect the people you claim you are looking to support – the Palestinians? Don’t buy it? Don’t believe me? I have one brand for you – SodaStream.
Let me remind you about SodaStream, this is the brand you consistently protested against, particularly when it opened its first UK store in Brighton in 2012, picketing, screaming at shoppers as they entered and left the store.
Well, it seems the BDS supporters may finally have their wish: with news that SodaStream are considering a logistics and operational move of their plastics and metals factory in 2015 from Ma’ale Adumim to its much larger $40m facilities near the town of Lahavim in the Negev. If this happens, it means that SodaStream will no longer be “occupying” in the West Bank.
Well done BDS supporters! Congratulations! Mazal Tov! Why am I congratulating you? Because if this move from SodaStream does happen in 2015, (even though it will be for operational reasons, you will still claim the victory) your demonic campaign, your misguided actions will have scored an own goal, hurting the people you claim to care so much about – The Palestinians. How come, you ask? Well, it’s because the potential move will also mean the potential loss of 900 Palestinian jobs – the people you claim you’re trying to protect, the people you claim to know, love and understand so much – will be out of a job.
But I know how much you know, love and understand the Palestinians, so I am confident that if SodaStream does move premises, you will do the right thing and have a whip round for the unemployed Palestinians, right?
Now, do you see how misguided, insane and unjustified a boycott of Israeli goods and services is?