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Boycott sparks Israeli buycott at Toronto MEC
By Patricia Marcoccia, Ryersonian.ca Staff on 12/1/2009 9:22:23 PM in
David Modlin boasts his new pair of "made in Israel" seamless boxers in front of Mountain Equipment Co-op on November 28, 2009.

 

 When David Modlin bought a new pair of seamless boxers at Mountain Equipment Co-op last Saturday, comfort wasn’t the only thing on his mind.

Modlin’s “made in Israel” underwear are on a list of products that a Vancouver organization is asking Canadian shoppers to boycott. They group organized educational pickets last weekend, marking the UN’s International Day of Solidarity with Palestinian people.

“I believe Israel is being unfairly targeted,” Modlin said. “My problem is that they’re trying to label Israel an apartheid [state]. My goal is to counter the lies. It’s slanderous, inaccurate, and unfair,” he said.

The Jewish Defense League of Canada issued  a national “buycott” in response to the boycott campaign, encouraging people like Modlin to purchase Israeli products.

“We consider this to be another example of vicious Jewish hatred,” said Meir Weinstein, the league’s national director. “If anyone tries to defame the Jewish people, the Jewish Defense League (JDL) is going to confront them and prevent them from spreading their message of hate,” he said.

The Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign, which called for the nation-wide boycott, issued over 2000 flyers at information pickets in Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax. According to group spokesperson, Gordon Murray, there simply wasn’t enough time to organize a campaign in Toronto.

About eight police officers patrolled Saturday’s counter-protest in Toronto. They didn’t mind the absence of opposition groups, they said, because it made the demonstration a more peaceful one.

Counter-protesters gather in front of MEC on November 28, 2009.

 

The Vancouver-based group launched this recent campaign after a majority of MEC members voted down a resolution to stop sourcing products from Israel, at the Co-op’s annual general meeting last April.

“MEC claims to be a leader. They were the first company to pull the BPA bottles off their shelves before it was called for by the government. They’ve taken leadership in other campaigns. We feel they should take leadership on this as well,” Murray said.

MEC decided not to take sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to its ethical sourcing blog.

“We’re not in a position to assess or affect international geo-politics. We look to the government of Canada and the United Nations for guidance on those practices,” said MEC public affairs manager, Tim Southam.

MEC has a formal screening program in place to ensure that companies it purchases products from meet the co-op’s ethical requirements, which focus on labour standards and factory conditions.

“That’s the filter by which we’re viewing these things. The activity of those companies is not part of the equation. We’re not assessing them outside of these factors: price, quality and ethical sourcing,” Southam said.

The JDL has led about 20 counter-protests in support of Isreal in the past year and a half, including five or six this summer alone. Last spring, it responded to an attempted boycott of Israeli wine. After half an hour of demonstrations, the Summerhill LCBO sold out of kosher wine.

Southam said MEC can't quantify the difference in sales that may have resulted from the boycotts/buycotts that occurred last weekend.

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