Saturday, 7 February 2009

Intelligent Boycotting

We often receive excitable texts and emails when Israel commit yet another aggression on the muslims of Palestine. These texts often contain such statements as “Mcdonalds to donate every Saturdays profits to Israel”, or “Drinking Coke is like drinking the blood of a Palestinian child.” However, these statements are purely emotional, and through studying them we can see that the muslim ummah is being used for capitalist ends by rival companies. A boycott is a very effective tactic, similar to a strike action on produce, and through sustained, intelligent boycotting and disinvestment results can be achieved.

This is not the same as emotional, reactionary boycotting. This type of “boycotting” serves little value, though intentions are sincere, because they are not based on fact and only rise and fall with the emotions if they prove to be correct.

For example, to claim that McDonalds will donate its profits every Saturday morning, as one text informed me, is just not true. We can prove this by examining the franchise structure of McDonalds, in which these are co-ordinated all over the world through individuals who pay a “preferred supplier” fee and as such take the profits for themselves. For McDonalds to be donating the profits every Saturday, this would mean that every single franchiser in the whole of the world would be contractually obliged to do this. This is simply not possible logistically.

For the other quote, regarding Coca-Cola, this again is not true. Drinking Coca-Cola may well be bad for you, but it cannot be equated to “drinking the blood of a Palestinian child”. This quote is originally sourced from Iran, who at the same time as this quote were promoting a rival coca-cola product. Therefore, this quote could quite reasonably be assumed to be a business decision by the Iranian Government to support their own product and undermine Coca-Colas market share. It is interesting as a sidenote to point out that Coca-Cola would not invest in Israel until the 1960s, as they feared an arab-wide boycott. Only when it made sound business sense did Coca-cola agree to distribution channels in Israel.

However, I am not for one moment saying that McDonalds and Coca Cola are friends of the Palestinians and the muslims, far from it. They DO invest in Israel, though this is clearly a business decision. They are capitalists, and believe in profit at all costs : that is part of the capitalist / free-market doctrine. What is needed is to encourage disinvestment through an articulate and targeted boycott, so that to continue to invest in Israel would no longer make financial sense.

So how to we do this? The first aspect I would illustrate is that many muslims whilst engaging in boycotts of these products were not targeting their efforts. I believe that a sustained campaign against one or two companies at a time would be far more effective than an emotional reaction to every single text or email we receive. By a sustained campaign, this would involve the following :-

1.Letters to the company, explaining why you are not interested in their product, why their support of Israel is misplaced, and explaining how you will be spreading this message of their support for Israel to your friends and relatives.

2.Prepare articles for circulation both within muslim and non-muslim circles, which can then be publicised online and offline.

3.Contact suppliers and customers of the company, advising them that the company concerned are engaged in supporting Israeli actions. Advise these suppliers and companies that you will be encouraging muslims and non-muslims not to trade with that firm whilst they continue to maintain the relationship between the Israeli-supporting customer/supplier.

4.Contact press and media, preparing accurate researched information regarding the companies anti-muslim actions. Ensure that these are well-documented and as objective as possible.

5.Finally, DO commit to not buying the product under any circumstances.

It is hoped that through these actions, it becomes a PR disaster and thereby creating a financial loss for the companies involved. Only when it costs them more money to continue to support Israeli product distribution versus the gains that they make in continuing to trade with Israel, thereby causing a net loss, will this lead to a disinvestment.

The strategies outlined above need not be restricted to Israeli produce or Israeli-made goods. Instead they can be directed towards any company anywhere in the world that continues to trade with the Israeli government. I would particularly encourage this action of disinvestment towards the muslim companies within muslim countries first. There are hundreds of Jordanian and Egyptian companies that trade with Israel everyday. Contact these companies directly using the steps above.

But what is hoped to be achieved through the boycott actions? For one, it would lead to a well-oiled Israeli war machine being far more restrained in its approach to the muslims in Gaza and the rest of Palestine, because they would not want to alienate its own financial support. If large scale disinvestment were to take place, Israel would be required to significantly alter its approach towards oppression, much in the same way as South Africa was forced to. It is perhaps optimistic to expect wide-scale emancipation over this disinvestment action, but we may never know which staw it is we lay that will break the camels back.

Over the coming week, I will research companies and provide sample letters so that this disinvestment campaign can be successful. If anyone has any information regarding companies that would be of interest, please do forward them to me.

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