[Boycott - Economic - Europe]
My week of buying only Israeli goods
Alex Kasriel, Jewish Chronicle
6 July 2007
The groups calling for the boycott — spearheaded by online Islamic software house Innovative Minds — have linked hundreds of brands to Israel, which means I have more products at my disposal than I thought. They say: “We have carried out extensive research to identify the guilty companies.” This makes my job easier, as they have pinpointed exactly the companies I need to embrace.
Boycotts? Not the JC’s style. Instead, we set our reporter a challenge: could she live for seven days using only Israeli goods and services?
I am sitting at my laptop, sipping some refreshing herbal tea and picking from a bunch of seedless grapes. My mobile phone rings, and someone leaves a voicemail message. So why should you care? Because the above products and services either come from Israel, or rely on Israeli technology. And I am staging a one-woman fight against the current mania for boycotts.
Trades union Unison recently passed a motion to boycott Israeli goods until the country withdraws to its 1967 borders. It also proposed that the UK ends trade agreements with Israel. Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre chief executive Lorna Fitzsimons argued: “The whole thrust of rebuilding Israel and a new state of Palestine is about economic engagement, economic reconstruction. The area needs investment…”
If she is right, we should all be embracing Israeli produce. So, in a symbolic act of defiance, I have pledged to use only goods produced by the companies the boycotters would have us avoid.
Hence, my MacBook runs on an Intel processor, and Intel makes chips in Israel; my green tea with mint is produced in Tel Aviv by Wissotzky; and my Nokia mobile phone uses Israeli technology developed by Motorola. Nokia is also a supporter of Israel and is reportedly setting up a research centre there. So far, so supportive — and I have not even embarked on my mission yet.
It quickly emerges that this task is not going to be too difficult. The groups calling for the boycott — spearheaded by online Islamic software house Innovative Minds — have linked hundreds of brands to Israel, which means I have more products at my disposal than I thought. They say: “We have carried out extensive research to identify the guilty companies.” This makes my job easier, as they have pinpointed exactly the companies I need to embrace.
Most famously, the boycotters have been getting their knickers in a twist about British ready-meal and underwear giant Marks & Spencer. The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has issued a leaflet containing details of the chain’s connection to the “Israeli regime”.
Luckily, my drawers are full of M&S knickers believed by IHRC to be supplied by Israeli manufacturers. As most self-respecting women buy their underwear from the store, these boycotters are really missing out.
At M&S in Camden, North London, I look for other things to buy. As I start inspecting the labels, a store assistant approaches me and says: “You look as if you’re looking for something.” “Yes”, I reply, “I’m trying to find anything from Israel.”
He looks at me quizzically before pointing in the direction of the herbs, all grown in sunny Israel. I also find some organic Medjool dates, fresh figs and white grapes. In need of some more fruit and veg, I head for a stall in nearby Kentish Town and pick up sweet potatoes from Eretz, two Jaffa grapefruits and an Israeli parsnip.
I go home to make roast sweet potatoes with rosemary, followed by dates and figs for pudding — one of my stranger meals. Although quite tasty, I go to bed with a bit of a tummy ache. The sacrifices one makes by taking a political stance.
Realising I will not be able to source enough fresh produce from Israel, I head for the UK’s Israeli heartland — Golders Green — for some kosher packet food. At the Yarden store, on Golders Green Road, I fill my basket with Carmit fruit toffee chews made in Rishon LeZion, dips and paté from Yarden, coffee and chocolate from Elite, Telma chicken stock, Strauss cream cheese made in Nahariya, crisps by Bamba and red wine from the Galilee.
I have never had such a good excuse to be this unhealthy, or to blow the budget on so many treats.
Back at home, I make a dish of Tival veggie sausages with mashed potatoes (from you-know-where). Not able to smother the dish in the unIsraeli Heinz Tomato ketchup, the boyfriend suggests we use KP’s HP Sauce. Having worked on Kibbutz Lotan, he knew the Arava Valley farm supplies figs to KP for the fruity condiment. In fact, KP is owned by Danone — another company on the hit list.
Danone owns shares in both Elite and Strauss food companies and has a research and development institute in Tel-Mond in Israel. The Innovative Minds website (inminds.co.uk) says: “In 1998, Mr Franck Riboud, on behalf of Danone, received the Jubilee Award by the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. This is the highest tribute ever awarded by the State of Israel in recognition of those individuals and organisations which, through their investments and trade relationships, have done the most to strengthen the Israeli economy.”
The sauce is tasty, too.
A friend asks me to join her for a workout at the gym. I decline, telling her I would rather go and practise the self-defence technique Krav Maga, developed by the Israeli army and now a favourite fitness system of stars such as Angelina Jolie and Cameron Diaz. It clearly works for them.
I attempt to pick up my sluggish energy levels with a cup of coffee, but the Turkish stuff made by Elite is not my, er, cup of tea. I’m missing my coffee-chain fix. After checking on the boycott website, I am relieved to find Starbucks on the list. Apparently, chairman Howard Shultz is an active Zionist.
Inminds says: “In 1998 he was honoured by the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah with the Israel 50th Anniversary Friend of Zion Tribute Award for his services to the Zionist state for playing a key role in promoting close alliance between the US and Israel.”
But a Starbucks spokesperson denies any political stance, saying: “Our primary focus is delivering the best customer experience. Starbucks is a non-political organisation and does not support individual political causes, including Israel.”
Proudly striding into my nearest store, I am confused by the dizzying variety of iced coffees on offer. The man behind the counter gives me an Espresso Light Frappuccino for free, saying I can pay next time if I like it. And I didn’t even tell him I was giving them a mention in the JC. Starbucks is my new favourite coffee chain.
I sign up for an AOL email account. The internet company is owned by US media giant AOL Time Warner which, along with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, invests heavily in Israel.
After heading directly to the newsagent for my copy of Murdoch’s Times, I join my mother and sister on a shopping trip to buy dresses for upcoming weddings. I take mum to the Israeli designer Ronit Zilkha’s shop, where she picks up an elegant frock complete with bolero jacket.
Then we head for DKNY, where my sister buys a fashionable silky dress and belt, and I can’t help splashing out on a fabulous gold necklace. The label is owned by Estée Lauder, whose chairman, Ronald Lauder, is the current president of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). Bingo.
According to Inminds, the organisation is “a quasi-governmental agency whose main function is to legitimise Israeli occupation of Palestinian land”.
His company makes nice tchotckes, though.
To fashionable Covent Garden for a spa treatment at the new Ahava store. Ahava is the only beauty range licensed to dig mud and minerals from the Dead Sea — and they have opened a salon here in Central London. You cannot connect with the land much more than by slapping it over your body and face. The therapist uses a variety of cleansers, toners and moisturisers from Dead Sea sources before applying a deep detoxifying mud mask. I am now feeling completely cleansed of any possible anti-Israel feelings. As well as deeply relaxed, I also feel a sense of pride that the product range sold in tourist shops all over Israel now has its own posh spa in the centre of London. What naches!
On arriving home, I discover by reading Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz’s online edition that Apple’s new mobile phone, the iPhone, due in stores in December, is likely to carry technology developed by Israeli company Ceva. I log on to eBay (which bought Israeli online comparison site Shopping.com! Woo!) and find that the average price for a “God machine”, as they are known, is $750 — beyond my price range, unfortunately.
Today I make a pilgrimage. Not to the holy city of Jerusalem, but to a footballing Mecca, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in North London. Innovative Minds and the Islamic Human Rights Commission are calling on campaigners to contact Arsenal Football Club and protest against its decision to promote Israel as a tourist destination. But seeing as the football club is sponsored by Emirates airline, it seems a fair trade-off. As I am not a fan of footie or its associated paraphernalia, I buy the cheapest thing I can find at the club shop — a 3D Gunners badge for £2.50 and give it to the boyfriend, a big fan.
I am much happier to purchase a KitKat on the way home. Nestlé, which makes the bars, owns 50.1 per cent of Israeli snack king Osem and is planning to set up a global R&D centre for snack foods in Sderot — which is why the company is being boycotted. “Nestlé’s investment decisions are made purely on the basis of commercial and industrial viability. Political considerations have no influence whatever on such decisions,” says a company spokesman.
The boyfriend comes over with a bunch of flowers — an unexpected pleasure. I enquire about their origins, indicating that I could only accept the lilies if they were among the many cut flowers grown and exported from Israel. He mutters something about checking with the flower shop in Crouch End where he bought them, and that they were indeed Israeli. I am not sure I believe him. Still, I hear Israel is one of the world’s leading diamond centres, so if he wants to get me a blinging dazzler instead, I would be only too happy to accept it. To do my bit, you understand.
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Page URL: http://www.inminds.co.uk/article.php?id=10163