Boycott this Boycott
Community Response to AHAVA Boycott
I just today received this compelling, researched and extremely informative letter from my friend and colleague Rabbi Samuel Weintraub of the Kane Street Synagogue in Cobble Hill. It offers a description of the organization behind the boycott protests of AHAVA products at Ricky’s. I am sharing it with you at his request and my endorsement.
This is not a campaign to encourage education concerning, dialogue about or political transformation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This campaign is part of an ongoing attempt to fundamentally delegitimize Israel’s existence. Rabbi Weintraub offers practical and easy steps each of us might take in responding to this attack. I urge you to read on!
Rabbi Serge A. Lippe
As some of you know this past week on two separate days, at 107 Montague Street, Ricky’s, part of an East Coast chain which sells beauty products, was picketed by activists in solidarity with “Stolen Beauty” an international campaign to protest the sale of AHAVA products because some are manufactured in the West Bank.
What is the background of ”Stolen Beauty”?
This campaign is part of BDS, “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions”, a loose international movement, led by a number of nongovernmental organizations, to apply pressure on Israel to change government policies towards Palestinians. Over recent years, BDS has organized, all over the world, boycotts of Israeli intellectuals and artists, divestment from Israeli companies by Church governing bodies, the removal of Israeli films from Film Festivals, divestment campaigns at universities, cancellation of concerts in Israel by international stars, even the expulsion of an Israeli delegation to an international Gay and Lesbian pride march in Madrid this past Spring.
There are many, Jews, Muslims and Christians, who oppose the occupation of the West Bank for all sorts of moral and strategic reasons. There are places for them to advocate their position in Israel, in Diaspora Jewish communities and in American political circles. Indeed, the desire to end the occupation has propelled many Israelis to the two-sate solution, now even supported officially by the Israeli government.
This position, however, must be joined with an unequivocal commitment to the sovereignty and security of Israel. That commitment is not evidenced by BDS. It refuses to endorse a two-state solution (arguing that it’s too “political” ) , but includes many factions which promote the unqualified right of return for Palestinian refugees, which, apart form its impracticality, would mean the end of the Jewish state. BDS cultural and academic boycotts are sweeping, and uninterested in making any political or moral distinctions among their targeted Israeli professors, intellectuals and artists. It is their very existence as Israelis which makes them unacceptable.
I understand that many of the people involved in Brooklyn for Peace are well meaning, and earnestly trying to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians. However, they also ally themselves with a movement which is one-sided, and which is eager to tar the government and people of Israel with the broadest moral condemnation. They are not focused on effective political change; rather, they demonize and blacklist. Cora Weiss, a long time liberal activist and champion of the anti-nuclear and anti-Apartheid movements of the 1970‘s has criticized BDS as “too broad-brush”. Indeed, the BDS campaign at the Berkeley Student Senate was so biased that left wing J Street joined with right wing Stand with Us to oppose it. Together, they formed a coalition which warned “complexity should be reflected in the dialogue on campus, rather than our singling out one side or another for condemnation and punishment.”
The power of the anti-AHAVA campaign, supported by the international BDS network, should not be under estimated. They have managed to force COSCTO stores to remove Ahava products, and pressured “Sex and the City” star Kristin Davis not to seek renewal of her contract as an AHAVA spokeswoman. Join me in combating it, and giving Israel not a white wash but a fair shake.
I urge you to take these steps:
Contact Dom Costello, CEO of Ricky’s at 212 352 8545 X8 (this is the number pro-BDS advocates are calling) and/or leave a comment at: Rickysnyc.com, then click on “log in”, then click on “contact us”. Make it brief: You support Israel as a sovereign state and member of the United Nations. Israel’s manufactured products deserve the same access to markets as those of any other law abiding, democratic country. You strongly oppose the AHAVA boycott and will need to shop elsewhere if AHAVA products are withdrawn from Ricky’s.
If you have neighbors and friends who are wondering what to think, expose them to the literature and websites of many Zionist groups who are trying to promote a peaceful two state solution, from the Consulate of Israel to J Street.
In the words of Zionist students at Berkeley, “invest, don’t divest”. Don’t stand apart; find opportunities in Israel to support organizations which live out your values, and your vision of a Jewish state.
This week, before Tisha B’av, is the saddest week of the Jewish year, when we recall the destruction of the ancient two Temples. Our Rabbis believed that Jerusalem was destroyed, not so much by external armies as by the inability of her inhabitants to respect and understand each other. May we this year eschew rash judgments which provide emotional release, but don’t free anyone, and may be open to seeing one another in our G-d given complexity.