Thursday, April 23, 2009

Boycott Israeli underwear?

First it was CUPE Ontario president Sid Ryan trying to boycott Israeli academics from our university campuses. Now there's a movement afoot on the left coast, apparently with the involvement of "BC Teachers for Peace and Global Education" to push Mountain Equipment Co-op to boycott, among other things, Israeli underwear:

Mountain Equipment Co-op -- best known for supplying Canadians with tents and sleeping bags -- is the subject of a political dispute between local opponents in the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A motion is expected to be presented next week at the organization's annual general meeting, calling for a boycott of all products produced in Israel.

"We just don't think [Mountain Equipment Co-op] should be doing business with Israel until it changes its behaviour," said Patrik Parkes, a spokesman for BC Teachers for Peace and Global Education.


MEC partners with two Israeli companies to produce two products. One company produces seamless underwear; the other produces a hydration system intended for hikers and bikers.
According to its website, BC Teachers for Peace and Global Education is a "provincial specialists association" of the BC Teachers Federation (BCTF), the union for public school teachers in British Columbia. It talks more about the issue in this press release.

What is it about unions of educators and boycotts of Israel? It seems kind of secondary to their primary raison d'ĂȘtre. But their human rights-driven action would seem stronger were they also raising similar issues in the many other countries around the world that have serious human rights issues. More often than not, though, it seems to be one country these groups target.

I'd check where my underwear was made, but it would be a bit awkward at the moment.

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KC said...

I too have never understood some on the lefts single-minded obsession with Israel among all the human rights violators in the world.

Skinny Dipper said...

We must be into another round of "If you are going to criticize Israel, then you must criticize every other country in the world."

I wish I could answer why the so-called left may focus on Israel as KC mentions. I can guess that one reason is that Israel calls itself a democracy. As such, the Israeli state is bound to get high scrutiny. How do Israelis treat their fellow Arab-Israeli citizens compared to Jewish-Israelis? Are they equal to each other? How do the Israelis treat the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza?

The next point about why Israel may be a focus of the left is because Israelis in general have a good standard of living. It's difficult to boycott North Korean goods when we import practically nothing from the hermit state. A boycott would have no effect on the North Koreans. As for Israelis, a worldwide boycott would have a lot of effect. Boycotts can work.

The third point is that it is fun seeing people be called anti-Semitic anytime they criticize Israel. Remember the golden rule to avoid being called anti-Semitic: if one criticizes Israel, then one must also criticize Luxembourg.

Boycotting Israel may force the Israelis to bargain as equals with the Palestinians rather than as superiors. The Israelis may be forced to change their underwear.

The Mound of Sound said...

Does this mean we all have to go commando?

A BCer in Toronto said...

SD, you do raise some good points, and some I'd take issue with.

A democracy has more of a moral authority, sure. But letting dictatorships or communist regimes off the hook because they have oppressive forms of government seems rather backward.

North Korea is a flawed example, as you say, we buy nothing from them. But how about China? We buy a helluva lot from China. And I don't think I need to expound too much on China's human rights record. So why no boycott of Chinese goods?

And is it a defence mechanism to reflectively say that anyone who raises an issue with someone's criticism of Israel is accusing them of antisemitism? It's like they're trying to mute criticism of their actions by playing the victim of false charges of antisemitism.

Well, I certainly didn't raise any such accusations. And if it's possible to disagree with Israeli policies without being antisemitic, and I think it is, then it must hold that it's also possible to take issue with those criticisms without calling them antisemitic.

I think we're both capable of that nuance, are we not?

On a side note, I wonder where Palestinians buy their underwear?


That's exactly what it means. In solidarity, commando-style!