Last Friday I was part of a group of Palestine solidarity activists who took advantage of the large crowds on the busiest shopping day of the year to educate people about companies profiting from or normalizing Israel’s occupation.
We chanted and got on the human mic (a la Occupy Wall Street) to tell people to specifically boycott American Apparel, H&M, Ahava, The Body Shop and Soda Stream for their involvement in Israel’s settlements. We were kicked out of the Water Tower Place mall and H&M as we chanted.
Press release follows:
CHICAGO, IL (November 25, 2011)— On the morning of Black Friday - the single largest shopping day of the year - demonstrators went through three of the busiest shopping centers in Chicago: H&M, Nordstrom and the Water Tower Place Mall. The demonstrators asked holiday shoppers to think of the ethics behind their purchases, and organized brief two-minute chants in favor of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid and advocated a consumer boycott of Israeli products.
Specifically, this holiday season, they singled out five brands: American Apparel, H&M, Ahava, The Body Shop and Soda Stream. As they chanted, several shoppers walked out, expressing support and recognizing that their purchases should not lend financial assistance to corporations upholding Israel’s discriminatory and forcibly violent - not to mention generally-illegal - policies of colonial apartheid.
The demonstrations were led by the group Chicagoans for Palestinian Rights (CPR) and joined by the Palestine Solidarity Group (PSG) and members of various Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapters (DePaul University, Northwestern University and University of Chicago) as well as unaffiliated community members.
Palestine solidarity activist and University of Chicago doctoral student Ishan Chakrabarti explained, “Some of these companies, like Ahava, The Body Shop and Soda Stream produce goods in the occupied Palestinian territories, on stolen land with stolen resources. Still others, like American Apparel and H&M, profit from apartheid and turn oppression into money by opening numerous stores in Israel on land which was ethnically cleansed of Palestinians by Zionist settlers in 1948. All partake and invest in an ethically bankrupt system.”
In Chicago, the consumer boycott of Israel has seen recent success at DePaul University, where students successfully lobbied the university to allow them the choice of purchasing either Sabra Hummus (produced by the Strauss group, which supports two divisions of the Israeli Defense Forces implicated in human rights abuses) or an alternate brand.
“Each time, the message is the same: don’t buy into apartheid,” said Chakrabarti.