on buying local, branding, & boycott

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this is how i often buy my milk, yogurt, and labne. a lovely man from a nearby village comes to my neighborhood every morning with his donkey. he shouts “laban” and you know he is here (there is a helpful echo that means his voice carries through the buildings). as a part of boycotting i try to support local farmers as much as possible. this means that i always ask questions about where the food is grown–the exact village–before i buy it. unfortunately, this means the huge fruit and vegetable market in downtown nablus is off limits. most of their food is from the colonizing israelis. but there are fruit and vegetable stands in the old city of nablus who only sell baladi produce. finding baladi food is not difficult, it just means entering into conversations with the merchant. but, of course, i always prefer to buy local. to support the fellaheen as much as possible.

my friends anne and jesse who live in shefa amr have a great new blog about living in 1948 palestine. they, too, work really hard to boycott israeli colonial products even while living in their midst–a difficult task to be sure, but one they have found ways around. it is worth reading their whole post, but here is the part relevant to what i’m talking about:

We are continuing to look for ways to eat locally produced food in Palestine. Of course because it supports farmers and the local economy and tastes better, but also because we spend less money on Israeli products. There is one Israeli dairy company, TNUVA, which accounts for 70% of the dairy products bought in Israel. Milk, eggs and cheese. All commodity production. All grain feed. Full of hormones and antibiotics. Imagining a cow’s stomach twisting around its other organs in order to digest corn feed, all while living in a CAFO is not the dairy industry I want to support. When we first arrived, we simply avoided milk and bought cheese from a small Palestinian producer in a nearby village. Then we discovered the ease to which we could find Helib Baladi (literally, milk from the country) at a nearby butcher. So every week we pick up a few liters of fresh sheep’s milk. We get to know the butcher and circumvent the Israeli commodity system.

this is the sort of thing we need to be focusing on: buying local. of course, i have a hierarchy when i shop. 1) local palestinian products; 2) palestinian products from companies; 3) arab products; 4) european products; 5) american products. living here, i never have and have never needed to buy anything from israeli colonists. there are people working on boycott at the institutional level, and while i support these efforts, i remain suspicious given that all the big palestinian businessmen have interests in the palestinian authority. but here is some news about organizing in qalqilia from ma’an:

The Palestinian Popular Committee for boycotting Israeli products visited the West Bank city of Qalqiliya to promote its renewed campaign.

The campaign recently redoubled its efforts in the northern West Bank, in hopes of convincing 50 localities to participate in the boycott. The strategy of the boycott is to deprive the Israeli occupation of economic support by refusing to buy its products.

Members of the Committee visited offices of the ministries of Religious Affairs and Education. They met with director of the Ministry of Education office in Qalqiliya, Yousif Uda and agreed with him that schools organize activities to explain about divestment.

They also visited the union of pharmacists and met with its head Raed Wilwil. Another visit was paid to the union of physicians. According to members of the committee, all expressed willingness to cooperate with the campaign.

Representatives of the Palestinian People’s Party (PPP) in Qalqiliya welcomed the campaign and applauded the organizers from represent six local organizations:

1 – Agricultural Relief represented in the campaign by Khalid Mansour.
2 – Youth Development Society represented by Walid Jibreel.
3 – Union of farmers represented by Amjad Omar.
4 – Union of Savings and Loans Societies represented by Wafa Juda and Basima Shawahna.
5- Rural women development society represented by Nihaya Abu Ruweis and Raghda Sabri.
6 – Agricultural Charity represented by Ammar Huwari and Mahmoud Younis.

the educational aspects are so essential and i cannot stress this enough. i went to a market near the university after school because i often buy my groceries there during the week. the market has way too much stuff from israeli colonists for my liking and i comment on that every time i go. but they also have unique stuff i cannot find anywhere else like masafi juice, which i love because it has no sugar in it. normally the water is just palestinian water. i don’t drink bottled water so i don’t usually focus on it when i shop, but today i noticed they had two new brands: ghadeer from jordan and an israeli colonial water product. i don’t really see why we need to be importing jordanian water given that there are two palestinian companies bottling water. (and in general i don’t see the point of drinking bottled water here in the first place.) but i was so pissed when i saw the israeli colonial water. i asked why they added this product to their stock and the clerk told me, “it’s not israeli, it’s from a settlement.” mish ma’oul! as if that is somehow better?! i was so shocked i didn’t know what to say.

the other day pulse published a video on their blog from europalestine about a new french initiative that should be duplicated in every city–including here in palestine! watch the video below and see this amazing demonstration:

Viva la France … EuroPalestine activists take it to the supermarket aisles. The solidarity whistling of this boycott army will put a smile on your face. Never mind not understanding French. The actions are loud and clear.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "ACTION BOYCOTT ISRAEL", posted with vodpod

but i want to just say that this philosophy of buying local is not specific to palestine. it is something that people should do everywhere for health reasons, for economic reasons, and yes, for political reasons. trying to stay away from corporate, capitalist greed by any means necessary is always the best way of operating in every situation. here is an article by andrea whitfil on alternet that is important reading for american socially and environmentally conscious consumers. it seems that many of the brands that we know and love have been gobbled up by bigger corporations. her article should be read in full, but here are the main disturbing findings:

Needless to say, I was shocked when I recently found out that Burt’s Bees is now owned by Clorox, a massive corporate company that has historically cared very little about the environment, but whose main industry is directly associated with harmful chemicals, some of which require warning labels for legal sale.

Clorox; yes, that’s right — the bleach company with an estimated revenue of $ 4.8 billion that employs nearly 7,600 workers (now bees) and sells products like Liquid-Plumr, Pine-Sol and Armor All, a far cry from the origins of Burt….

Well, no more. My bathroom assessments will never be the same. Tom’s of Maine is owned by Colgate-Palmolive, a massive, tanklike company with an estimated 36,000 employees and revenue of approximately $11.4 billion. Its big products include: Ajax, Anbesol and Speedstick….

In the dairy section sit many flavors of Stoneyfield Farm Yogurt. I knew its socially conscious CEO, Gary Hirshberg, had created major organic brand recognition to become the No. 1 seller of organic yogurt in the United States, but since then Danone, the French conglomerate (which also owns Brown Cow), acquired a majority holding in Stoneyfield. This is the same Danone that had to recall large quantities of its yogurt in 2007 after it was found to contain unsafe levels of dioxins. (In an interesting twist, the still-active Hirshberg sits on the board of Dannon U.S.A. Unlike most of the early entrepreneurs, who took the dough and left the scene, Hirshberg is still involved. )

Meanwhile, I learned that Horizon Organic milk was bought out by the largest diary company in the U.S., Dean Foods Co., in 2005.

Next I ventured to the juice section. Drinking Odwalla juices was an expensive habit I had justified for years because of its healthy California brand. The ubiquitous refrigerators in thousands of stores should have given it away that Odwalla wasn’t the small company it once was. It is now owned by Coca-Cola. Almost as soon as Coca-Cola bought the company, back in 2001 for $181 million, it stopped selling the fresh-squeezed OJ that had made Odwalla famous and popular among the healthy set. With its massive distribution system, fresh squeezed wouldn’t last the days and weeks the juices are in transit or on the shelf.

Not to be outdone (although it took it a while), Pepsi bought Naked Juice in 2006 for $450 million, in order to compete with Odwalla. Smuckers, the brand we are told is the “brand we can trust”, grabbed several juice mainstays from the health food store shelves: After the fall — R.W. Knudsen and Santa Cruz Organic.

Turns out that Coca-Cola also owns Glaceau, the company once known for its “fresh new approach to bottled water that is inspired by nature and enhanced by science.” Glaceau is the maker of Vitamin Water, Fruit Water, Smart Water and Vitamin Energy — all bottled waters that are adorably marketed and loaded with sugar. It’s no wonder Coca-Cola was slapped with a lawsuit in 2006 for making deceptive and unsubstantiated health claims in its Vitamin Water marketing strategies; they are selling glorified sugar water….

And as Michael Blanding notes on AlterNet, “In fact, many times bottled water is tap water. Contrary to the image of water flowing from pristine mountain springs, more than a quarter of bottled water actually comes from municipal water supplies. The industry is dominated by three companies, who together control more than half the market: Coca-Cola, which produces Dasani; Pepsi, which produces Aquafina; and Nestle, which produces several “local” brands, including Poland Spring, Arrowhead, Deer Park, Ozarka and Calistoga. Both Coke and Pepsi exclusively use tap water for their sources, while Nestle uses tap water in some brands….

Over in the breakfast aisle, my friend was a bit apoplectic when we learned that the “super healthy” Kashi cereals, the favorites of millions of healthy breakfast eaters, was bought in July 2000 for an “undisclosed sum” by Kellogg’s, the 12th-largest company in North American food sales, according to Food Processing. I picked up a box of Kashi’s “Go Lean Crunch” and searched every word; not one mention of the fact that Kellogg’s owns them. That change was rally below the radar. In 2004, Kraft Foods, known for processed cheeses and Kool-Aid, bought the natural cereal maker Back to Nature. Kraft is a subsidiary of Altria, which also owns Philip Morris USA, one of the world’s largest producers of cigarettes….

A little more digging shows that General Mills owns Cascadian Farm; Barbara’s Bakery is owned by Weetabix, the leading British cereal company, which is owned by a private investment firm in England; Mother’s makes it clear that it is owned by Quaker Oats (which is owned by PepsiCo); Health Valley and Arrowhead Mills are owned by Hain Celestial Group, a natural food company traded on the NASDAQ, with H.J. Heinz owning 16 percent of that company.

After the Kashi news, I wondered what was next? I didn’t have to go any further than the organic chocolate aisle of my favorite deli to find Green and Black’s organic chocolate was taken over in 2005 by Schweppes, the 10th-largest company in North American packaged-food sales. And even more surprising to chocolate lovers is that Dagoba Chocolate, which had a little cult chocolate following for a while, is surprise, surprise, owned by Hershey Foods….

just a reminder: many of these american products should be boycotted because they heavily invest in israeli terrorism. those companies, which have now swallowed up companies many progressives and radicals may purchase, should be added to the boycott list. kraft (phillip morris, malboro cigarettes), nestle coca cola, pepsi, all bolded above.

one other interesting tidbit on the level about the way that israeli colonialism infests the palestinian economy. a friend told me today that a friend of hers who is a tax inspector was looking at a shipment on a truck. that shipment had on it products made here in nablus and was heading to some unknown israeli colonial location. what was on this truck? the uniforms for israeli terrorists. yes, that’s right, it seems that at least some of those uniforms are sewn right here in nablus.

and it seems that the israeli colonists are trying to be clever now as they grow more aware of the boycott here. those of us working on the boycott got our university cafeteria to stop using israeli colonial ketchup. they switched to a brand from oman. however, this week there was a new brand. it had hebrew writing on it so i complained. they told me, “no, this is from ramallah.” so i looked at the back and sure enough, in english, it said it was made in bil’in, a village near ramallah. today my friend and tried calling the numbers–both a land line and a cell phone line–to see if it is really made in palestine, or just packaged here, or what. neither number works.

6 thoughts on “on buying local, branding, & boycott

  1. im trying to figure out how to even start trying to boycott israeli stuff from haifa…but the problem is, even in the west bank if you dont buy a single israeli product, the electricity is controlled by/generated from israel (i believe the bills in ramallah come from the ‘jerusalem electricity company’, dont know about nablus), the water is certainly controlled by israel, the telephones and internet are controlled by israel, even if there is a palestinian company now, its only because the israelis allow it, the cars that we take for services inside ’67 all come from israel, the licenses of the drivers are issued/approved by israel. and finally, as ajaneb, our passports are stamped by israel wherever we enter palestine from…in short, israel controls everything…even if we dont buy a single product from one of its companies…sigh.

    1. yes, of course, when i talk about the infestation of the israeli colonial economy in the palestinian economy this is what i mean. but i think it is lazy to give up and say, “oh well, so much of our money goes to those israeli terrorists anyway, so what does it matter what kind of milk i buy?” the point, that i have made on this blog a million times is this: BECAUSE so much of our money goes to them in ways we cannot control (electricity, water, gas, etc.) then when we do have the CHOICE we make that choice to NEVER buy anything that comes from them.

      1. of course, i was never suggesting that! it’s exactly why i outlined all of the above that one should try not to buy whatever we can possibly buy in other places. the point i was trying to make is: it is foolish to deceive ourselves into thinking that our individual boycotting of consumer products negates how the zionists control the basic infrastructure of everything in palestine. of course each individual effort we make to boycott an israeli product is commendable, but until israel is isolated internationally and it becomes shameful to have open relations with it, like south africa, and until serious advancement is made in wresting the infrastructure of this place back from them, our efforts will only have a very limited effect. many of the ngo’s, both palestinian and international, are guilty of not doing enough in this, because palestine in their discourse gets transformed into an issue of human rights, and thus eventually charity, when it is an issue of national (and hopefully international) liberation. they are also guilty, along with much of the educated intelligentsia of the west bank, of unquestioningly going along with oslo and accepting the 67 borders by not doing enough to build relations with the palestinians in 48, as well as in the diaspora. in short, we have much to do…

        1. well, okay, but it seems like you are still saying the same sort of thing i was objecting to. it seems like you think we should wait until the zionist entity is isolated internationally. the problem is boycotts work the other way around: mass movements to boycott lead to such forms of isolation. boycott and divestment is the way forward to sanctions. not the other way around.

  2. nuh-uh, i dont think we should ever wait for anything! im saying that while the effort at the level of consumer products is commendable, it has to be accompanied by an effort on our part to at the broader infrastructure level. the “international community” (for all the ridiculousness of that term) is not interested in making israel a pariah, and we as radicals should not look to state forces anyway to make broad-based changes inthe direction we want. maybe changing the state-oriented discourse around palestine is a place to start at the intellectual level, but i’ll be the first to admit that i dont have a readymade solution. enjoy yr fresh milk, im envious.

  3. this a great article, I live in United states and I will do everything in my power to convince my family and friends to join this boucott. it is very ironic how I got to this article , I actualy was looking for the Masafi apple juice which I thad in bethlahem last summer and I was trying to see if I could find anywhere in the U.S or where my family could by buy it for me and ship it .I really think Masafi juices is the best juice I have ever had, and I am very sure there are other prouducts in palestine they taste and have better nutretions than any Israeli products . Like I told my family back home if I lived lived in israel , I will make sure that two weekends out of the month I will drive to bethlahem or bet jala and shope for all my needs from food to cloth and whatever just to support the people of these palestinian towns because they rely on the visitirs to their towns to make there living and I will know that whatever I buy from there is going for good cause .

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