Tuesday, August 12, 2014

For Sceptics: "Boycott Israel" FAQs

Special thanks to the artist Artortoise for coming up with the illustration specifically for this article (Twitter: Artortoise_label FB: Artortoise IG: Artortoise)Special thanks to the artist Artortoise for coming up with the illustration specifically for this article (Twitter: Artortoise_label FB: Artortoise IG: Artortoise)
IT looks like the ‘Boycott Israel’ Campaign is gathering full steam right now not only internationally but also here on our shores. An increasing amount of people have joined in with the cause and last Friday we even saw the highly successful ‘Malaysia Boycott McDonalds Day’.

A few weeks ago Malaysian Digest produced an article titled “Why ‘Boycott Israel’ Needs To Happen Now” (to read click here) which largely explained the importance of the campaign. But just like all other materials on the boycott that was posted on social media, we had comments and questions coming from sceptics and those who were against the boycott. Despite our original article already addressing most of those questions, today we hope to answer and silence these sceptics for once and for all with our answers. 

However, again, we would like to invite those against the campaign to also read our previous article in the link above for further reading.

Q: Why don’t you guys boycott Facebook?

A: Why should we boycott Facebook? Because Mark Zuckerberg is a Jew? You guys need to get your facts right as we are NOT boycotting Jews. We are boycotting Israel, Zionism, and companies that contribute to the two. There is a difference. People need to understand that this campaign is not a religious or racial (in nature). 

In our previous article, we interviewed Dr. Hafidzi Mohd Noor, the chairman for Aqsa Syarif (one of the major organisations organising this boycott). He explained: “There is a difference between Jewish and Zionist. We do not boycott a company because they are Jewish; we boycott them because they support Israel. If the company that supports them are Christians or even Muslims, we will boycott them too,” This is also NOT a boycott USA campaign. This is a humanity campaign. That’s why the campaign is joined by millions around the world including Christian and JEWISH groups.

On his Facebook page, Dr. Hafidzi explained that even if the social media site did support Israel (so far there’s no evidence), there is no need for us to deactivate our account. “Take this for an example, if we were at war in the battlefield against Israel and suddenly we got our hands on one of their weapons. What will we do next? Destroy the weapon? Or just leave it because it is our enemy’s weapon? If it was me, I’ll aim it at our enemy. Let them have a taste of their own medicine.”

And that is exactly what we are doing. We are using Facebook to expose and campaign against Israel! If the site really does support Israel, we are giving them a taste of their own medicine.

Q: You guys are hypocrites.Everything in the world today is made and owned by Jews. You guys boycott some products but still use plenty others from Israel. Shouldn’t you guys boycott everything?

A: I hear this question all the time. They want us to boycott everything from aircrafts to medicine to computers to Manchester United.

First of all, let’s understand the purpose of the campaign. “Boycotting is actually a war strategy. The modern day war is no longer just about weapons. Our war with the Zionists is a ‘total war’; it includes factors like economy, politics, social, culture, and education.

So, we admit that we aren't capable to boycott them 100% but here’s the thing — we don’t need to boycott each and every Israel product to cripple their economy. When the U.S bombed Japan during World War 2, it didn’t need to bomb every single city in Japan to cripple the country. It just bombed two. If you want to shoot and kill someone, you don’t need to shoot each and every body part (calf, shoulder, hand, knee, foot, etc). You just need to shoot either the chest or the head. It gets the job done.

That’s why organisations like Aqsa Syarif and Viva Palestina have focused the boycott on just four large companies (McDonalds, Coca-Cola, L’Oreal, and Nestle). They didn’t pick these companies by random. It is a well researched and strategic decision. Of course, the public can choose to add more companies to the list if they are capable to do so (I myself boycott more than four), but we don’t need to feel sorry if we don’t boycott 100%.

People have to remember that this is a war strategy, not some random action based on impulse. Dr. Hafidzi again explains it perfectly on his Facebook page: “Boycott is intended to cause problems to the enemy, not cause problems to ourselves. We campaign to boycott certain fast foods because they are not critical products and there are indeed other alternatives. The boycott that we are organising is ‘hitting the enemy where it matters’. You don’t hit the enemy where it will hurt you more.

Q: Companies like McDonalds and Nestle employs thousands of local workers. If these companies go bankrupt, wouldn’t the boycott hurt our local economy and workers more than Israel?

A: Out of all the arguments those sceptics present me, this is the only one that I can empathise a little with. I still don’t agree with it, but I do recognise that there is genuine concern.

Dr Hafidzi Mohd Noor of Aqsa SyarifDr Hafidzi Mohd Noor of Aqsa SyarifDr. Hafidzi explained in our previous article that target of the boycott was not the individual companies, but in fact Israel itself. If these companies stopped their support towards Israel, then we can continue using their products once again.

With that in mind let’s get things straight. Globally, the companies will not go bankrupt. This boycott movement is participated by millions around the world and we’ve already said that if they stop their support towards Israel, then we’ll stop our boycott towards them. When they start to feel the impact of our campaign, do you really think they’ll choose to go bankrupt over them stopping their contributions towards Israel? Yes, if we boycott them enough, they will choose to stop their contributions. They will not choose bankruptcy.

The BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement has proven this many times before. Caterpillar Inc. for instance had to move their operations away from the West Bank after being boycotted. The effectiveness can also be seen in the boycotts towards Alstom, Motorola and plenty of others.

But what happens if the local companies go bankrupt before their global headquarters give in, some might argue. Wouldn’t that hurt our economy instead? Here’s the thing. Just because their share of customers shrink, it doesn’t mean the entire market shrinks too. For example, if customers of Malaysian Airlines have declined in recent years, it doesn’t mean the total number of people flying have declined too. They just chose to use other airlines like Air Asia instead.

The customers of their products will go to other products, either some local business or an international franchise. Our economy will still reap the benefits. Perhaps it’s our local business that are the ones that will profit the most. Nobody complains when a ‘buy local’ campaign for example is made. If everyone bought local products, say ‘Ramli Burger’ or ‘Burger Bakar’ for instance, doesn’t that mean McDonald’s share declines too? That is basically the same thing happening with this boycott. In fact a local newspaper yesterday reported that Jasma, a local brand selling mayonnaise has seen an increase of sales of 20-30% since Israel launched ‘Operation Protective Edge’. Coincidence? I think not.

The workers of those companies being boycotted will survive just fine. But those innocent civilians, women, elderly people, and children in Palestine on the other hand will not if we don't do something like this campaign.

Q: This campaign shows the low mentality of Malaysians. That is why we will never be an advanced nation. And what will happen if other countries boycott us in-turn because of this campaign?

A: Open your eyes. You think this campaign is confined and limited only to Malaysia? When you say advanced nation, which nation are you talking about? America, Britain, France, Japan? Thousands in those exact countries have protested against Israel and have supported the boycott.

In fact the origins of the BDS movement started from the US and Europe. The Norwegian government announced in August 2010 that based on advice from the Norwegian Council on Ethics, it had excluded two Israeli companies from a government pension fund. A few banks and industries in Europe such as Danske Banke (Ireland), Nordea Bank (Sweden), Vitens (Holland), and many others have withdrawn their investments from Israel. Plenty of well-known figures from around the globe like the world’s most famous scientist, Stephen Hawking has also joined-in with the boycott.

Are there fears that Malaysia will, in-turn, get boycotted? Here in this country, it's only the general public which is involved with the boycott. Our government, so far, has not. Compare that to Bolivia. Its President, Evo Morales recently cancelled a decades-old agreement that allowed Israelis to travel to Bolivia without visas. Morales said, “in other words, we are declaring Israel a terrorist state.” El Savador, just last week, recalled its Israeli ambassador from Tel Aviv following the step’s of Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru. 

Anyway, if anyone wanted to boycott a country because its citizens chose to boycott Israel, then that will mean more than half the planet will be boycotted. Just Google for "demonstrations around the world against Israel" to see what I mean.

Scenes of an 'Anti-Israel' protest in London last week. Photos compiled from FacebookScenes of an 'Anti-Israel' protest in London last week. Photos compiled from Facebook

Q: Why hasn’t there been much support from OIC or Arab countries on the boycott?

A: I guess you’re singling out OIC and Arab countries because they are Muslim countries, am I right? Let me stress again, this is NOT a religious campaign, but a humanity issue. Why don’t you instead ask why there are thousands of Jews, including those in Israel that are supporting the boycott?

In the U.S, groups such as ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’, ‘Jews Say No!’, ‘American Jews for a Just Peace’, and ‘Breaking the Law of Return’ have unequivocally supported the BDS movement. Others from around the globe which include ‘Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods’, ‘Jews Against the Occupation’, and a host of others have put BDS as a cause to rally behind.

Even within Israel itself, prominent individuals and organisations have pledged their support to the BDS movement and its vision of equality for Arab citizens of Israel, recognition of the Palestinian right of return, and ending the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. Groups such as ‘BOYCOT!’, ‘The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions’ and the ‘Alternative Information Center’ fully support the cause.

Miko Peled, author of the book ‘The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine’, is a peace activist who grew up in a prominent Zionist family. His grandfather, Avraham Katsnelson, was one of Israel’s forefathers as he signed Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Peled’s father, Mattiyahu Peled, was a General in the Israeli army. Yet, Miko Peled strongly opposes the Zionist state and supports the boycotting of Israel. 

Recently while being interviewed on the news show, Breaking The Set, he said “If they (Israel) don’t like the rockets (fired by Hamas), they can lift the siege on Gaza and allow the Palestinian refugees to go back to their homes. Furthermore they can release all the Palestinian prisoners unconditionally and call for free and fair elections — one person for one vote for every person who lives in this county (Israel). And cancel the apartheid regime, in other words topple the apartheid regime. This is what needs to happen and it needs to happen immediately. And until it happens, the world needs to boycott this place (Israel) and put sanctions on Israel.”

Plenty of Christian groups such as ‘United Methodist Church’, ‘United Church of Canada’, ‘Norwegian Church Aid’, ‘National Coalition of American Nuns’, and ‘British Methodist Church’ have also come out like many others to support the boycott.

Q: Why has there been no ‘fatwa’ urging people to boycott?

A: I can’t believe I’ve come across this question several times before. No one said these products were ‘haram’ and we are definitely not forcing anyone to boycott the products. That’s why it’s called a ‘CAMPAIGN’. If it was ‘haram’ and required a ‘fatwa’, nobody needs to do any campaigning.

Q: Why don’t you do a campaign to boycott things that are ‘haram’ like alcohol? Isn't that more beneficial?

A: See the previous answer above. If it is ‘haram’, there’s no need to campaign. Muslims are forbidden from taking ‘haram’ things in the first place. 

Furthermore, that’s why we stress this is NOT a religious campaign, but is a campaign for humanity, freedom, and fight against the cruelty of Israel. The people of Palestine having been living in an open-air prison for decades while Israel itself is an apartheid state.

pic: Pittsburg Post-Gazzettepic: Pittsburg Post-Gazzette

Q: Does boycott really work?

Yes it does. Companies mentioned previously above like Caterpillar Inc., Alstom, and Motorola are just three of many examples of its effectiveness. Also the BDS campaign is similar to the anti-apartheid movement that toppled the regime in South Africa. It has been done successfully before.

Q: How do I know if a company really contributes towards Israel?

A: Inminds’ website (www.inminds.com/boycott-israel-2012.phphas a complete and WELL-RESEARCHED list on the companies that contribute Israel and how they contribute.

Q: Rather than boycotting, wouldn't it be better if you went to Gaza and help with the war?

A: Going to help with the war is up to the individual. I previously wrote that donations and aid towards Palestine are most welcomed, but they are a defensive move. Believe it or not going to the war is also a defensive move. Israel has more advanced weaponry and finance.

Boycotting on the hand is an offensive move and the move Israel fears the most right now. So it’s time to instil fear in them! Start boycotting Israel now!

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