Saturday, January 24, 2009

Yalla, It's Time To Boycott... Isn't It?

So, I've been the recipient over the last few weeks of numerous calls to boycott companies from Nestle to McDonald's to Carrefour. I find the concept very interesting. I know in the Middle East that the boycott has been a long term way of voting with your feet. I respect that greatly. I also think that boycotting over the Gaza situation could be appropriate. But, there's still something I don't get...

Having read the information on Nestle's direct investment in and commitment to Israel, I understand boycotting them. Many people in the US have been boycotting Nestle for many years for its portrayal as it's infant formulas and milk as "better than mother's milk" in less developed countries. I can see many reasons Nestle might be a company you'd want to boycott. and, given its corporate politicism given not only where it builds plants, but the lobbying of the Swiss government on behalf of Israel, okay. Boycott them, if you like.

What I find fairly befuddling are the arguments that one should boycott McDonald's on the strength that this publicly held company's FORMER CEO personally supported Israel. Hunh? So, we're saying that it's not only appropriate and desirable to boycott companies who support Israel but companies that used to be run by a person who supported Israel? This one fails to launch for me.

The argument is fundamentally the same for boycotting Starbuck's. Their CEO is a Zionist. Yeah, and? The company doesn't support Israel. In fact, given that it has NO stores in Israel currently and is in 9 Middle Eastern countries, it seems to me that the company itself supports Arab economies far more than the Israeli economy. Am I missing something here? I tend to expect that what someone does with their money personally is just that, personal. But maybe I am missing something. I figure the folks who have jobs at Starbucks here in Amman and the partners who own the license for the region in Kuwait are going to hurt far more than the Zionist CEO... But, that's just me.

Somehow the fervor people are showing to this boycott idea is a bit unsettling to me. Not that they vote with their dollars, that's a great idea. What I find worrisome is that people seem to get a list and start spreading the need to boycott the company. No research is necessary. When the boycott of Danish products began, many non-Danish products got caught up in it because they were originally Danish or sounded European. Is that the right way to boycott? Harming those who have done no wrong? I'm just not sure.

Personally, I hate Carrefour (see previous posts on this topic), but when I saw them appear on the list, I wanted to understand why. It turns out that they buy bras from an Israeli company. This company has the majority of the market share. So, rather than suggesting that people put pressure on Carrefour to identify an alternative or withdraw those products from their stores, the list says boycott them today... Is that the best idea?

I guess my bottom line question is, what is the purpose of the boycott and will it accomplish your goals? Because putting local families out of work and decreasing their ability to earn a wage seems counterintuitive to me. I think boycotting Israeli produce is excellent as it hits the people who feel it the most. But, make sure that the broccoli you are boycotting isn't grown in the Dead Sea farms on our side of the border. Otherwise, again we're only hurting ourselves if we punish our fellow countrymen over misunderstanding and rumor.

Happy Boycotting!


At 11:18 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done, MB. Thanks for doing the research

I have also received such contacts, and the 'act before your think' mentality is disturbing.

Side note, with issues like this and others, I am beginning to think that 'rebranding' just isn't enough. It's like the 'pouring new wine in old wineskins' proverb. There are so many core issues problems that circumvent true change.

I think I need a new dose of enthusiasm. Or chocolate.

At 11:33 PM , Blogger UmmFarouq said...

Yes, well done. I'm with you on this. (I don't buy from Starbuck's for other reasons, mainly, I think their coffee tastes like stuff from ashtrays and can make better myself).

Blind boycotting will only hurt the locals.

At 12:25 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really agree with what you said, sometimes we get so emotional that we become irrational at all, and this turns to become an un-reasonable boycotting. I'm with what some poeple say that these campaigns can be even used sometimes by competing merchants to get a bigger share of the market on the expense of another one's

At 3:24 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Kinzi, I vote chocolate.

Umm F, yeah. Since I don't drink coffee, their hot chocolate is actually better than the Nesquik variety popular at most local chains... Not good, but better.

Tha2ir, that's it. Letting emotion run away with us rarely provides benefit. I hadn't heard about adding your competitors to the boycott list... sneaky.

At 11:51 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tha2ir's mention of adding a competitors name to a boycott list leaves my jaw on the floor. :O

At 1:30 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agree with you. Also, the resources it takes to organize and coordinate a boycott are more urgently needed elsewhere. Large multinationals aren't likely to notice a decline in Jordanian market share. It is a drop in the ocean to them.

Better to focus on more substantive matters.

Also agree with Kinzi. There's no point in conducting a branding campaign before some corrective actions are taken at home (e.g., putting more peer pressure on people to stop suicide bombings and the celebrating that tends to accompany them, chastise the shoe throwers instead of elevating them to hero status, put those honor killers in jail for a long time and stop treating them like local heroes, develop a thicker skin about people who simply don't agree with certain cultural or religious traditions so that innocents aren't killed when, for example, cartoons are published). These things will do more to change international opinion than some slick campaign designed mainly to gloss over the internal issues within the region.

At 7:12 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Kinzi, Yeah me too. Takes a sneakier mind than mine to think that one up...

Anon, I agree. However, from a bottom line prspective, the Palestinians need rebranding simply to make them human. Today's world has boght into this "Palestinian = terrorist" idea which is simply untrue. SO, both are definitely necessary.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home