Israel lobby frets as consumer boycott begins to enter Canada

hummous boycott

The consumer boycott of Israel is just beginning in Canada, but the Israel lobby appears to be already panicky. In August, they even called the cops to investigate stickers which appeared in a Vaughan grocery story. Read more.

York Regional Police were asked by a complainant in Vaughan, Ontario to investigate an incident in which a Sabra hummus product was targeted by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS), according to an article in the Canadian Jewish News.(CJN)

The BDS movement is still only in its infancy in Canada but the lobby appears to feel that it is growing. According to CJN, “stickers advising consumers not to purchase products made in Israel are popping up across Canada”.

While CJN is clearly worried about the spreading movement, it did not tell its readers about another worry – police do not seem to be accepting the argument that this is a hate crime. 

Mysterious BDS sticker

Since August 8th, an image of a Sabra hummus tub purchased at the Sobeys grocery store in Vaughan, north of Toronto, with a “Boycott Israeli Apartheid” sticker on it has been widely circulated on Facebook.

Its not clear how the sticker came to be in a Canadian store since it was actually produced by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) a British NGO. PSC is a public and legally registered NGO in the UK which counts celebrities like actress Julie Christie, film maker Ken Loach, UK Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Jewish Israeli academic Ilan Pappe among its “patrons”.

“Facebook posts now show stickers on Sabra hummus, Keter and SodaStream products, Glutino biscuits, dates and tangerines at grocers, and at hardware stores in Montreal, Winnipeg, Hamilton and Brampton, Ontario, and other towns in British Columbia.”

– Canadian Jewish News

How a British sticker got on Israeli food products in Canada a bit of a mystery. But it does reflect the international nature of the growing boycott.

In Canada, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East  (CJPME) has recently launched its own sticky note boycott initiative.  CJPME is offering free packets of BDS sticky notes to Canadians wanting to discourage the purchase of Israeli products.

cjpme boycott sticker

CJPME’s free boycott stickers say “stand up for human rights.

How effective can a consumer boycott be?

Will the economic pressure of a boycott ever be strong enough to really affect Israeli behaviour? It’s hard to tell. Many Israeli exports of course, (e.g. military/police equipment), are immune to a consumer boycott.

However, the anti-apartheid boycott did tremendous harm to the reputation of South Africa, despite the fact that South African oranges and wine were a only small part of its exports. The negative publicity generated by the boycott campaign gradually forced outside powers like the US and the UK to stop supporting the apartheid regime.

But is boycotting Sabra anti-Semitic?

Israel’s defenders claim that the boycott is anti-Semitic because it opposes Jewish businesses. BDS advocates deny the charge. They point out that BDS opposition to Sabra is based solely on the fact that it is an Israeli firm. (Legally, Sabra is an American company, but it is a subsidiary of the Israeli conglomerate Strauss.)

Your comments welcome. Do you think the BDS movement is growing in Canada? Have you seen any signs of it? Do you welcome this development… or not??

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22 comments

  1. The BDS movement against Israel’s horrid treatment of Palestinians is not racist and it is not anti-Semitic though I’m sure a few anti-Semitic people will be a part of this. That cannot be helped.
    The BDS movement does include many Jewish people and many Jewish people protest against the actions of Israel all over our world including in Israel.

  2. I don’t think it can be all that effective. Pesticides, fertilizers, refined petroleum, cut diamonds, plastic adhesives, integrated circuits. Israel just doesn’t sell much directly to consumers. And what they do sell tend to come packaged in other goods. A company boycott, companies avoiding Israeli goods could be more effective. But even here I’m just not sure it would really matter.

    Israel does about $54b a year in exports. A 100% boycott would cost Israel about 10-15% of this tops, so best case about $7b. Canada is only $650m or about $100m in damage from a 100% boycott. The three biggest trading partners are the USA (adores Israel), China (unlikely to boycott Israel over their human rights record), Palestine (not capable of boycotting),

    Moreover Israel has throughout its history maintained a negative flow of funds (i.e. every year Israel gets net investment from the world). This net flow oscillates due to currency shifts but seems to always range between $4-10b. Which means any multinational boycott is going to do more damage to the balance of trade of the boycotter than the boycotted Moreover BDS calls for both divestment and boycott which contradict each other. Net divestment requires more Israeli exports, by definition.

    The BDS movement especially the consumer oriented stuff can be successful in saying mean things about Israel that get their domestic Jewish population upset. They can’t really do much to Israel. The fact that the boycott works against the domestic Jewish population but is structurally incapable of being effective against Israel is why one would argue this policy is Antisemetic not so much about parent vs. child corporations. Though I will comment that European leftists (not Canadians AFAIK) are total hypocrites on this issue. They frequently argue that Microsoft Europe, Mobile / Exxon in Europe, Google Europe are European companies and thus shouldn’t act American (mostly with regard to regulation)… which goes against your Strauss / Sabra analogy.

    1. Even if the effect is Lexi than 1% or even if it’s a one single dollar… It’s still something
      Way to go BDS 🙂

  3. If the boycott didn’t do anything to Israel, their people around the world wouldn’t make such a scandal and pull out their “it’s anti-semitism” card for every dollar they lose. One thing that doesn’t favor them is a good action

    1. “Their people” are mainly Jews. Anti-Zionism has a long track record of raising tensions between societies where it becomes policy and their indigenous Jewish population to the extent that they are forced to leave. Most of the planet has been successfully ethnically cleansed of its Jewish population in the post WWII years via. Anti-Zionist political movements including countries like Venezuela, Iran, South Africa and potentially France in this generation. Jews generally rather like their homes and don’t want to be forced out by ever increasing levels of tensions with their neighbors induced by Anti-Zionist policies. The official objectives of Anti-Zionist movements have little bearing on the existence of domestic opposition to Anti-Zionism where Jews are powerful enough to express such opposition.

      Fighting a common foe helps to build connection so Israel benefits enormously in their objectives of inculcating Zionism by fighting alongside foreign Jews against Anti-Zionism. The opposition has little to do with the supposed success of the official objectives of Anti-Zionist movements of somehow attacking Israel. BDS is a perfect example of this because the success is measurable and low while the opposition to BDS has been heated.

      To pick an example (pre-BDS) from Canada, Concordia University. The Student government in 2002 became officially anti-Judaic banning the main religious Jewish society Hillel because of their pro-Zionist activities. The net result of this by 2003 was a politicalization of the Jewish students and Jewish Community that quickly led to strengthening official ties between Concordia and Israel. You are seeing a similar process play out globally today with respect to BDS and moving governments to become officially and formally anti anti-Zionism.

  4. Give the Palestinians a fair shake and the global BDS movement won’t be necessary. The ball’s in your court, Israel. And do leave off with the anti semite label. It’s pathetic.

    1. @Ian

      Palestinians as Palestinian nationals cannot be given a “fair shake” by Israel. The purpose of a government of a nation state is to take collective action on behalf of the nation. Ethnically Palestinian Israelis can be given a “fair shake”. BDS by encouraging a Palestinian national identity rather than a Palestinian ethnic identity hampers not advances Palestinians in getting a “fair shake”. Far from necessary it is harmful to the objective you claim to be trying to achieve.

      1. Sure they can be given a break as a nation. The Palestinian state, recognized by many countries, can be allowed to form and Israel can move back to their legal declared and recognized borders.

        Skip the cap about San remo,article 80 blah blah. Israel declared borders when it sought independence and has not legally acquired a square meter since. It is why they have insisted on negotiations and not a legal process solutin. They have no claim to the land they occupy unless Palestinians cede it to them.

  5. Sabra Hummus is NOT produced in Israel or Palestine. It is a US company, NOT an Israeli company. It is a worthy target for BDS? Are all products made by companies owned by Jews, now targeted – regardless if they have any connection to Israel?

    1. Sabra is targeted as it donates food to the idf thereby directly supporting the oppression and crimes against the Palestinians. Specifically the Golan brigade which is rather infamous.

      The short answer to your closing question is no.

      1. Anonymous – I understand why you don’t like anybody donating food to the IDF. But I am not clear on whether this would qualify it for boycott under BDS guidelines. My understanding is that it is not WHAT THE COMPANY DOES, but rather WHETHER OR NOT IT IS AN ISRAELI COMPANY. As I understand it, Sabra is a US subsidiary of an Israeli company. I stand to be corrected if I am wrong.

      2. Peter, what I stated is not my personal opinion but the publicly stated reason for targeting sabra products. Google can show this. Being an Israeli company does not make it subject to the wider boycott efforts. In the same vein being an international company does not make one exemmpt.two frequent targets HP and Caterpillar are certainly not Israeli. Directly supporting the infamous Golani brigade certainly qualifies targeting companies involved in oppression of the Palestinians.

        As basis a voluntary peaceful civil action without any memership or structure many people may interpret that call in many ways. That said in my interpretation that call is pretty clear and it does not target only Israeli companies and also does not target all Israeli companies.

        https://bdsmovement.net/what-is-bds

  6. @Anonymous —

    This is a BDS site not a liberal Zionist site. BDS rejects a simple two state solution and makes additional demands. A simple withdrawal is not the policy in question. It is simple besides the point to even discuss it here. The UN accepts the existence of a Jewish state, BDS does not. You cannot talk about “legally” in the context of a movement that rejects international law.

    Factually though you are incorrect regarding history and Israel declaring borders. They most certainly did not. The Yishuv declared a Jewish state in Great Israel with the independence resolution. They agreed to partition they didn’t declare it. It was rejected and their was a civil war. The 1949 Armistice lines were explicitly declared to not be a border. There have been some finding that have tried to make it into a border but the UN itself has upheld again and again that the border between Palestine and Israel requires agreement and should not be just declared as per your post.

    As far as legally acquiring territory annexation is a legal act. So yes Israel has legally acquired territory. You may not like the fact that Jews have a state and thus can engage in legal acts but that is quite different from pretending that such acts never occurred.

    As far as claim to the land, populations have the right to a government that represents their interests, its called self determination. That right to self determination is recognized incidentally by the UN. As frustrating as it is for BDSers that right applies to Hebrew nation. The Jewish population of the West Bank has every right to self determination and to remain in their homes. There is no concept in international law of illegal populations as BDSers like to claim. This idea that a population can be exterminated, enslaved or expelled because of a historical process of migration is a doctrine explicitly rejected by the UN and international law. BDSers are free to argue for this sort of historical based violence and advocate for the idea that only “legitimate residents” are entitled to rights. This was one of the more popular arguments for slavery in the USA 200 years ago. What they aren’t free to do is claim this understanding is international law.

    1. Co-host

      BDS does take a position on either a one state or two state solution. Why should it? Similarly it does not reject either.

      Israel has not followed the accepted legal process, under in ernational law, in order to legally annex any territory. No it has not acquired a single square meter legally outside it’s declared borders.

      Whether Israel declared the partition or accepted it is irrelevant. It declared it’s borders and further acknowledged that it had armed forces operating outside it’s borders which we now know were involved in ethnic cleansing operations. This was started prior to it’s declaration of statehood and continued after, ceasing the large scale operations only after Arab armies responded in defense of the civilians being killed and terrorized.

      As frustrating as it is for zionists and their apologists the right to self determination applies to the Palestinians as well. Of the two groups, Israelis and Palestinians, only one of them is being denied this right. The Israelis are denying that right to the Palestinians.

      Apologies for all the typos… autocrrect on a new tablet but I am trying to fight it!

  7. @Anonymous —

    — BDS does take a position on either a one state or two state solution. Why should it?

    Of course it does. BDS is of course vague and contradictory on many issues. And it certainly pays some minor lip service to there being multiple resolutions. But in sum total the demand of BDS lie somewhere between the PFLP and the Iranian position. The sum total of the 3 demands is: Arab (or Muslim) state in all of Palestine with a Jewish minority oppressed to the extent that they no longer have any meaningful self determination at all if they continue (or are able) to live their at all.

    Two stater would want population separation, would encourage exchange of territory and / or people’s to consolidate the populations between the two states and would want at best some degree of minority protections in either state not equality. They embrace the ideal of self determination for both peoples, and thus they certainly wouldn’t openly embrace anti-Zionism.

    — Israel has not followed the accepted legal process, under in ernational law, in order to legally annex any territory.

    I think you still have a few overly broad claims. Try this, “Israel has not followed the legal process claimed by the UN under their claimed international law to annex territory”. Israel is however the body capable of enforcing policy in the territory it lays claims to. Has publicly laid claimed to it, and has not been challenged militarily on that claim in decades. So following the definition of annexation that has existed for centuries and is the means by which most county’s established their borders it most certainly has annexed territory legally.

    This is going to take us a bit out of our sphere. But a government is a body which has the power of enforcement. If you can’t enforce you aren’t the government. The UN is not a governing body. The UN claiming that things are international law which it cannot enforce discredits itself. The laws are the policies of a government in the territory it controls. An act is legal of the enforcing body says it is legal.

    This is almost a tautology.

    — It declared it’s borders

    You are simply wrong here. Find the declaration of borders by the state of Israel.

    — and further acknowledged that it had armed forces operating outside it’s borders

    Israel didn’t exist in 1947-9. The Yishuv did. The was no borders nor an Israel that Israel could be operating outside of. 47-9 was a civil war in mandatory Palestine between two ethnic groups. One of those ethnic groups established the state. The other got what remained of its territory chopped up by its allies.

    — ceasing the large scale operations only after Arab armies responded in defense of the civilians being killed and terrorized.

    What are you talking about? The first foreign Arab attach on Palestine was January 8, 1948. The third phase of the war 15 October 1948 – 10 March 1949 was Yishuv / Israeli forces vs. Arab armies which had strategic positions. There was very little ethnic cleansing in this phase it was purely border dispute between armies. The hostile civilians were long gone.

    — As frustrating as it is for zionists and their apologists the right to self determination applies to the Palestinians as well.

    Of course it does. The Palestinians have every right to self determination where they reside. The conflict is over their claim to be entitled to govern areas where Jews reside.

    1. cd-host

      “Of course it does. ”

      Of course it doesn’t. As with the Green Party, “morally offensive” bit you’ve merely concocted a strawman based on your own preconceived notions and then attacked that strawman.

      The execution of RoR would not overturn a Jewish majority within the legal boundaries of the State of Israel. It most likely would if Israel wanted to keep it’s illegally gained territory but that is a choice it can make.

      There are many forms a two state solution can take. No one needs to accpet your rather startling version of a two state solution.

      “would want at best some degree of minority protections in either state not equality. ”

      Wow. Equality of citizens is something you are against. That says so muuch. At the same time it’s no surprise. Even in a Jewish majority state you are against minorities having equal rights.Amazing.

      “and has not been challenged militarily on that claim in decades. So following the definition of annexation that has existed for centuries and is the means by which most county’s established their borders it most certainly has annexed territory legally. ”

      The annexation process under international law is an accepted process. Israel has not followed that process. End of. Israel is in violation of international law. End of.

      I note you used the phrase “challenged militarily” in your reponse.

      While the UN has not authorized force to be used under Chapter VII of the UN Charter it certainly not only challenged but ruled on the legailty of Israeli attempts to illegally change the character of territories it occupies as well as illegal attempts to annex territories.

      “Israel didn’t exist in 1947-9. The Yishuv did.”

      Of course it did.

      The Peoples Council/Yishuv was recognized as the provisional government of Israel. Israel certainly did exist and proclaimed it’s existence on May 14th, 1948.

      Two examples of it’s border claims are in it’s plea to the US for recognition and in it’s meetings with the UN security council when attempting to gain admission to the UN.
      http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/israel/large/documents/newPDF/49.pdf
      https://unispal.un.org/DPA/DPR/unispal.nsf/eed216406b50bf6485256ce10072f637/b4085a930e0529c98025649d00410973?OpenDocument

      In accordance with the Montevideo convention in order to obatain recognition as a state the entity must possess the following qualifications: (a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with the other states.

      “What are you talking about? The first foreign Arab attach on Palestine was January 8, 1948. The third phase of the war 15 October 1948 – 10 March 1949 was Yishuv / Israeli forces vs. Arab armies which had strategic positions. ”

      What are you on about? I didn’t say Arab attack. Another invention on your part. An attempt to dissemble? I referred to the Arab armies. I can only assume you are referring to the ALA which at a force strength of several thousand did not constitute an arm in any sense other than name. Additionaly it was made up of approx 25% local Palestinians and foreign volunteers. It was no more (or less) a foreign attack on Palestine than was zionist efforts could be defined as a foreign attack due to the efforts of the GACHALand MACHAL which recruited (iirc) about 25,000 foreign fighters in Europe and elsewhere.

      I admit I omitted the word state from my phrase “Arab armies” but under no circumstance could the ALA be effectively called an army.

      The efforts of these irregular forces on both sides aside you can’t drag the ALA into it without mentioning the correspond zionist aggression. We can certainly debate that under another topic at some future point in time. I am well aware of the various attacks, atrocities and casualty counts on both sides during that period. For now it is merely an attempt to deflect and distract.

  8. @Anonymous

    — The execution of RoR would not overturn a Jewish majority within the legal boundaries of the State of Israel. It most likely would if Israel wanted to keep it’s illegally gained territory but that is a choice it can make.

    Of course it would. The refugees (as defined by BDS) at this point are generally 3 generations or more removed. Of their 8 great-grandparents most are going to have had one at least come from the 2/3rds of mandate Palestine that is within the green line at some point 1880-1949. Extend another generation or so and you are talking 16 great-great-grandparents. They are going to want to live in the wealthier part (while the wealth lasts) for the same reason that Israeli-Arabs don’t want to be made part of a Palestinian state.

    RoR is destruction of Israel. The same way that having the entire Chinese population migrate to the USA would be the destruction of America.

    — Wow. Equality of citizens is something you are against. That says so muuch

    You belong to a movement that argues for the total ethnic cleansing of the 650k people most of whom are children and east of the green line. You don’t get to play the morality about fair treatment of minorities when you propose their expulsion or extermination.

    Also please don’t put words in my mouth. I never said anything about equality of citizens at all. Were the Palestinians ever willing to become full citizens of Israel there would be no Israel Palestinian dispute. It is their unwillingness to do so that is at the root of the conflict.

    — The annexation process under international law is an accepted process.

    No it isn’t. It is a process to which lip service is paid and then ignored. There have been major shifts in territory since WWII. The classic definition has usually been applied and the UN’s notion of permanent states has proven unworkable.

    — While the UN has not authorized force to be used under Chapter VII of the UN Charter it certainly not only challenged but ruled on the legailty of Israeli attempts to illegally change the character of territories it occupies as well as illegal attempts to annex territories.

    That doesn’t address challenged militarily. A government able to establish both the consent of the population and undisputed military control engaging in incorporation is the government. The UN’s definition results in silly situations where fictional governments that exercise no control over territory are called on to represent that territory. This BTW is not unique to Israel, Israel isn’t being singled out for the UN’s escape to the realm of fantash. The UN’s take on Crimea for example is equally ridiculous to their position on Jewish inhabited territories beyond the green line.

    As for your two examples I suggest you read them. First off they were supposed to be documents were Israel declared its territory unambiguously in accord with the partition plan. They don’t contain any such statements. Not only that though, but in the 2nd one the future Israeli government makes explicit claims to territory beyond the 1948 lines based on things like the territory no longer (or never) being inhabited by Arabs and now inhabited by Jews for example taking the entire Negev region.

    — It was no more (or less) a foreign attack on Palestine than was zionist efforts could be defined as a foreign attack due to the efforts of the GACHALand MACHAL

    Were the Contras a foreign attack on Nicaragua?

  9. @cd-host

    If Israel were to withdraw to it’s territory only one third of those refugees would be entitled to return. Certainly the number is much larger if Israel attempts to keep illegally acquired territory.

    You want a consequence free crime and the ability to keep the fruits of the crime. Sucks to be you but there is no reason that should occur.

    Expulsion or exterination? Looney tunes wants it’s Starr character back. Give them a call.
    Even if Palestinians want expulsion they are merely following g the zionidt lead. The PA has already stated that the settlers may stay in place if they take Palestinian citizenship and live by Palestinian laws. Considering 70 years of oppression that is magnanimous.

    Those were examples of many. Israel count not have been recognized as a state or accepted into the UN without borders per the Montevideo convention. I certainly disagree that it made explicit claim but any disagreement on that is irrelevant as the rules for acquiring territory legally are in international law and have never been followed by Israel.

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