LAST_UPDATEThu, 24 May 2018 8am

The Boycott After Effect

A girl holds a flag at a rally in support of Gaza in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 2. Pic: ReutersA girl holds a flag at a rally in support of Gaza in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 2. Pic: ReutersFollowing the Israel-Gaza conflict that was triggered by Operation Protective Edge launched by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), a massive ‘Boycott Israel’ campaign began to dominate globally with citizens and companies choosing not to support the Zionist entity.

People all around continue to show their support for the Palestinians who are being attack in their own homeland in the Gaza Strip with nearly 1,900 Palestinians killed and more than 9,000 people wounded in the Israeli strikes.

Calls for a worldwide boycott have begun to show a significant impact on Israeli products and companies globally at citizens worldwide have started protesting against Israel’s invasion of the Palestinian homeland by exercising their consumer rights. However the lack of accurate information on the products and companies to boycott has drawn mixed reactions from the general public.

Sales of Coca-Cola has dropped since boycott. Pic: www.ynetnews.comSales of Coca-Cola has dropped since boycott. Pic: www.ynetnews.comThe Economic Effect

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid had previously warned that the increasing number of worldwide boycotts campaign will affect its economy. Washington Post reported that export of Israeli goods has dropped by 14% after most supermarket chains in Europe boycotted their products.

PepsiCo and the Coca-Cola Company have lost almost AS$230,000 daily after business and retailers started boycotting Pepsi and Coca-Cola beverages.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) global campaign against Israel that started in 2005 was to increase economic and political pressure on Israel in various forms of boycotting until it meets its obligations under international law to recognize the Palestinian people’s right to their homeland.

The worldwide campaign proved to be successful as banks and industries in European countries such as Ireland, Sweden and Holland have withdrawn their investment from Israel.

In early 2014, the Norwegian government withdrew its investment in two Israeli companies, Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus for their violations of individual rights in war through the construction of settlements in East Jerusalem as reported in Haaretz.

Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates sold his shares in G4S, a British security firm for being involved with Israel’s prison, security and military systems in June 2014 as reported by Reuters.

The following month, SodaStream, the beverage machine maker from Israel was removed from the British department store, John Lewis following pressure from the public and also due to low sales.

'Buycott', a search engine to enable netizens to find out products linked to targeted companies or countries for boycotting. Pic:'Buycott', a search engine to enable netizens to find out products linked to targeted companies or countries for boycotting. Pic: www.treehugger.comReactions has been mixed globally and to further enhance the boycott campaign,  BDS is expecting to launch their own internet application later this year – ‘Buycott, a search engine to enable netizens to find out products linked to targeted companies or countries for boycotting. This Buycott application is able to categorize brands and their affiliations with Israel.

The rising number of users signing up in Buycott has seen over 350,000 supporters and has continued to grow with two popular campaigns, “Long Live Palestine Boycott Israel” and “Avoid Israeli Settlement Products”  which have included list of companies like Intel, Marks  & Spencer, Nestle among others.

According to the International Business Times report, this app allows the user to scan a product’s barcode with their smartphone and the programme will determine which brands are associated with which campaigns to enable consumers to make the right decision in supporting people in Gaza.

Boycotting the Big Four

UK based Islamic group, Inminds, has researched and come up with a list of international brands of food, fashion, beauty, telecommunications and others that contributes to Israel. This list is now posted on Inminds’ website. 

The campaign mainly focused on the four big companies, McDonald’s, Nestle, L’Oreal and Coca-Cola. While there are many more brands under the list, many of which are high-end products, the ‘big four’ were primarily focused on as they are most visible and familiar to consumers as mass market products globally.

The Boycott McDonald's campaign that was spread through social media gained mixed reactions from netizens. Pic: www.blogammar.comThe Boycott McDonald's campaign that was spread through social media gained mixed reactions from netizens. Pic: www.blogammar.comRecently, McDonald’s Malaysia released a public statement denying any funding towards the Zionists in Israel stating that the former chief executive officer of McDonald’s Corporation, Jack Greenberg had left the organization more than a decade ago. This public corporate statement was posted on their website following mass negative reaction from Malaysian citizens.

That wasn’t enough to stop demonstrators from expressing their somewhat unruly protest at some McDonald’s franchises especially in Kerteh and Dungun. where aggressive demonstrations caused disruption and was seen as a threat to the workers.

Last week, a ‘Boycott McD Malaysia Day’ campaign went viral over social media networks on 8th August from supporters and based on Sinar Harian observation during that day, not many people visited the outlets and only non-Muslims were seen in many outlets which seemed less crowded than usual.

Some premises located near Masjid Jamek, Jalan Tun Perak and Klebang, Malacca saw peaceful protests during the campaign as reported in the News Straits Times.

Images and viral videos of boycotters damaging the premises, as well as targeting cars with their drive-thru stickers and spreading offensive abuse on the Internet have made it difficult for workers to work in these premises.

McDonald’s Malaysia Chief Managing Director, Stephen Chew told NST that the situation has been unfair for the employees and franchisees, as they have been subjected to harassment, threats, verbal abuse and vandalism that cause some outlets to close their operations. 

Shortly after that, following McDonald’s cue, a popular high-end beverage brand, Starbucks also issued a statement to address the rumors of contributing financial support towards Israel as ‘false rumors’ on their official website. 

Its spokesman, Jim Olson did not specify the encounters that Starbucks faced in Israel as all of their stores has closed down in 2003 due to ‘operational challenges’, not due to political issues. 

mD made some observations on Starbucks premises in Kuala Lumpur and saw a similar situation as at McDonald’s outlets as not many people were seen around and most outlets were empty during the usual peak hours. 

One of the popular coffee chain's outlet, Starbucks in Kuala Lumpur was seen empty due to the boycott effect. Pic: mDOne of the popular coffee chain's outlet, Starbucks in Kuala Lumpur was seen empty due to the boycott effect. Pic: mD

How did it affect us Malaysians?

Grocery store owner in Kampung Baru, Abdul Malik Mohd Som, 63, told mD that Israel-based products are sold less in his store and it did not make up a large percentage of the stock that he carries in his store.

“Boycott Israel has been quite a phenomenon in Malaysia ever since Gaza is being attacked by the Zionists and citizens have taken a solidarity approach in boycotting their products. So far, sales has not been affected in my store as I do not carry a lot of them,” said Malik.

However Malik said that there have been some reprimands mainly from schoolchildren and university students for selling some of the brands that were said to have been linked with Israel, but not to an extent of harsh criticisms. 

One of the small grocery store in Kampung Baru. Pic: mDOne of the small grocery store in Kampung Baru. Pic: mD“I will certainly do my best to take out and stop carrying products that come from Israel. We need to teach our consumers about the products and give them alternative products of our very own local producers for instances,” he said. 

“As a Muslim, this is part of my responsibility and I am committed in this solidarity approach in defending the Palestinians,” conclude Malik. 

Terengganu-based grocery shop assistant, Azlan Syah Saidi Pek has been running his family business in Kemersik, Kemaman since 2006. Approximately, 70% of the brands are linked with Israel from over 3600 types of products sell in his store.

“I am neutral when it comes to boycotting as it can affect my profit income as well.  My business is to provide the basic needs to the people. Selling unfamiliar brands of the products might decrease my sales as people are not familiar with it,” said the 25-year-old.

Products such as Maggi, Milo, ‘Head & Shoulder’ shampoo and Danone biscuits are what most people would still buy while Coca-Cola and cigarettes are still his shop’s best seller according to Azlan.

His acknowledged that only a minority of people will come and reproach him about the products that he is selling, as many would find it hard to boycott some products such as baby’s milk, which mostly tend to have a link with Israel.

“Like it or not, some would still buy the baby products as it is part of the daily basis needs and has always been around in our market for years,” he said.

What are the others are saying?

For homemaker, Shareeda Abdul Latiff, 38, boycotting does not have to be to so extreme. She shared her experience with Malaysian Digest about how some Malaysians are overreacting when it comes to this matter.

“I had this fellow housewife who came up to me and start forcing and giving me lectures about boycotting Israel based products just because I happen to have the McDonald’s drive-thru car sticker on my car!” 

Among the extreme protest of McDonald's premises in Malaysia. Pic: FacebookAmong the extreme protest of McDonald's premises in Malaysia. Pic: Facebook“I am not against boycotting, but there’s a lot of other ways we can help like providing medical aid and other support to the people in Gaza,” shared Shareeda.

She told mD that it is quite hard for her to boycott daily products that has been used for decades in her family, such as Nestle’s Kit Kat and Milo, Johnson & Johnson’s bath products and Colgate toothpaste for instance.

When asked how are her young children are coping with the boycott campaign, she said that her children learn and understand the whole situation from their teachers, Ustazs and Ustazahs in school and would be telling her what not to buy anymore for their home.

“Personally, I think when the conflict is over, places like McDonald’s and Starbucks will be packed with people again as this is not the first time that it has happened. Even with pressure from other people, I believe it is up to yourself on how you want to help the Palestinians,” said Shareeda.

Online entrepreneur, Aisha Wong, 27, supports the ‘Boycott Israel’ campaign as there will be many more Palestinians killed in the conflict if the nations did not unite together.

“Like other people, I believe not every product we can boycott due to its necessity in daily usage, but for some we can help by not contributing to it, particularity McDonald’s and Starbucks as it is more of a want rather than a need,” 

“There are a lot of local-based products that we can choose as alternatives to the ones that we have been used to. It’s always important for all of us to unite and help those who are at risk of persecution & murder,” she said. 

Commenting on extreme boycotting demonstrations that have got out of control, Aisha said that it is harsh and irrelevant to punish and threaten the Malaysian workers.

“You don’t want to be called as Zionist don’t you? I think citizens need to read a lot and do their research to understand what is boycotting all about before actually taking action,” said Aisha. 

Freelance model, Wiwie Darvienda, also said boycotting Israel-based products is the most efficient way to support the Palestinians in Gaza. 

“I think advertisements and promotions of the products also need to stopped by the higher officials if they are serious in boycotting, not just by urging consumers to  stop buying these products,” 

“If they really want to do it, why don’t these companies drop those high end brands that support Israel from coming in to Malaysia?” said the 24-year-old supporter. 

Citizens needs to learn and undertand a lot when it comes to boycotting. Pic: www.maxkeiseronfacebook.comCitizens needs to learn and undertand a lot when it comes to boycotting. Pic: www.maxkeiseronfacebook.comNon-Governmental Organization, Aman Palestin media director, Anas Abdul Wahab told NST that boycotters should stop flinging abuses at employees at boycotted companies and should not go overboard in protesting Israel. 

On 10th August 2014, together with other Muslim NGOs, they launched a month-long ‘peaceful boycotts’ campaign called ‘Bulan Kemarahan Ummah’ that will be targeting McDonald’s, Starbucks, HSBC bank, as well as Coca-Cola and Nestle as reported by The Malay Mail.

Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman, the chief executive of Aman Palestin said, he urged boycotters not to vandalize, hurt the feelings or mock their campaign during its launch event in Taman Tasik Titiwangsa last Sunday.

We all want a peaceful resolution at the end of the day. Emotional and destructive boycotting will only make matters worse. Let us all have some peaceful solidarity for the sake of the Palestinian people and exercise our humanity in a civilized and pro-active manner for once and all. 



- mD