To Boycott U.S. Products Gains Momentum
Special to the NNPA from IPS
30 May 2002
RABAT, Morocco (IPS)They use our money to kill our
children in Palestine, reads an advertisement run by several
Moroccan dailies to rally support for a campaign to boycott American
products in Morocco.
The advertisement names a large number of United States brands,
from Marlboro to McDonalds, that Moroccans are being called
upon to boycott as a sign of rejection of U.S. backing of Israel
in the conflict against the Palestinians.
With the government unable to take a tangible action in favor
of Palestine we, as civil society, have the duty to mobilize citizens
for a cause that is religiously and nationally central to us,
says Hassan Serrat, a reporter from the Attajdid (Renewal) daily
of the party of Justice and Development (PJD).
The PJD is Moroccos largest Islamist party with 14 seats
in the 325-seat House of Representatives (lower chamber of parliament).
It has joined with the secular Association of Support to the Struggle
of the Palestinian people (AMSLP/independent) to give more momentum
to the ongoing campaign.
The Morocco-based U.S. companies are contributing to Jewish
funds, said Mohamed Yatim, a PJD MP. We have information
that McDonalds (based in Oak Brook, Ill., near Chicago), for
instance, pays substantial assistance to a Chicago-based Jewish
charity, he said.
McDonalds has been the target of a fierce attack by the pro-boycott
activists. In Casablanca and Rabat, customers were reported to have
been harassed by young fundamentalists. Officials from McDonalds
Moroccowhich has 16 restaurants in the countrysay the
campaign will probably result in a huge loss in profits for the
In a bid to counter the campaign, McDonalds has been running
press releases in the Moroccan pro-government press which state:
The Morocco branch operates with Moroccan capital, employs
Moroccan youth and abides by the teachings of Islam in terms of
Analysts say the Moroccan government is not at ease with the anti-U.S.
campaign, although it does not directly intervene to put a halt
to it. Such campaigns could cause much harm to the Moroccan
economy, especially since Morocco is trying to shift to a higher
gear in its economic and commercial ties with the U.S., said
a government official who asked for anonymity.
Morocco and the U.S. are scheduled to soon begin negotiations on
a free trade zone. The pact, expected to be sealed early next year,
will make Morocco the second Arab country after Jordan to have such
an agreement with the U.S.
Trade between the two countries did not exceed $972 million, according
to 2000 figures.
For Hassan Nraiss, a businessman from Rabat, the boycott
campaign is shortsighted and risks torpedoing Moroccos efforts
to build strong commercial ties with the U.S. The Palestinian cause
can be better served diplomatically rather than by blind campaigns
of this kind, he told IPS.
The boycott campaign may entail some loss for some Moroccan
investors who market U.S. brands, admits Yatim, who concedes
that the harm to the Palestinian cause by selling American
products in Morocco is even greater, as much of the money gained
here is paid to Israel.
The campaign seems to have a positive echo with ordinary consumers.
There are many options for U.S. products. I personally check
the products before buying, said one consumer at a supermarket
in downtown Rabat.
People are very staggered by the U.S. backing of Israel. This
largely explains the positive response to the campaign, says
Ahmed Rifael, an activist of AMSLP and member of the boycott coordination
The ultimate goal of the boycott campaign is to make U.S.
companies put pressure on their government to change its policy
in the Middle East, he said, adding the language of
money is the easiest language for the Americans to understand.
The campaign echoes a mounting clamor in other Arab nations for
the boycott of U.S. commodities as an expression of anger.
Experts, like Ahmed Chaabi, say that the Arab boycott is considered
as the strongest reflection of anger against the U.S. Middle East
policy and its siding with Israel.
But we have to be careful in considering the all-out boycott
of U.S. products in the Arab countries, whose inter-trade is still
short of filling the gap that might result from such a move,
says Chaabi, a U.S.-educated stock exchange expert.
Arab nations import half of their needs from the United States
and the European Union, whereas the volume of inter-Arab trade does
not exceed $27 billion.