International Jewish Human Rights Organization Ridicules Luxembourg Supermarket Chain for ‘Caving’ Selectively to BDS
A major international Jewish human rights organization expressed concern over Luxembourg’s largest supermarket chain’s decision to pull Israeli produce from its shelves, following an aggressive campaign by a French anti-Israel NGO.
The campaign involved disrupting shoppers at stores of the chain, Cactus.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center appealed to the very small Western European country to enact measures to deal with the “gangs” of activists, mostly from Comité pour une Paix Juste au Proche-Orient (the Committee for a Just Peace in the Middle East), who have noisily demonstrated outside Cactus stores for months, demanding Israeli products be taken off the shelves. The Wiesenthal Center argued that law enforcement should treat these protests as public disruptions.
Cactus responded by issuing a statement that the “income from Israeli produce is minimal and not worth the annoyance to customers caused by protests.” Still, it added, high-priced products from Israeli company SodaStream would remain.
In a letter to Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, Dr. Shimon Samuels, Simon Wiesenthal Center director for international relations, ridiculed the chain for caving to pressure, and called the supermarket’s economic considerations “outrageous.”
He said the fact that the supermarket would continue to sell SodaStream because it is more lucrative makes it sound “like Cactus will accept any threats and mayhem if the price is high enough.”
Though Israel has no embassy in Luxembourg, diplomats have already begun to lobby the authorities to reverse Cactus’s decision, according to Israeli reports. Israeli exporters have had to deal with a similar threat — from the Swedish supermarket chain COOP, which was refusing to sell Israeli items — but the ban was overturned.
Europe has been far more accepting of the BDS movement than the U.S., with several high-profile controversies erupting over the issue. One of these was American Jewish reggae musician Matisyahu’s performance at a Spanish festival, which was canceled and then resumed. Another involved comments made on a trip to Egypt by Stephane Richard, the CEO of French telecom giant Orange, about ending his company’s contract with Israel. The latter incident drew the attention of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who demanded an explanation from Richard, when he visited Israel.
BDS is hardly a European phenomenon, however. Just this week, the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America became the first national union in the U.S. to join the boycott movement. The American Studies Association (ASA), the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church have all adopted measures divesting from Israel.
Some activists, such as the attorneys with Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center, have sought to warn groups like the ASA that their actions could conflict with federal and state laws, though Shurat Hadin founder Nitsana Darshan-Leitner acknowledges that many BDS activities are protected by law.