US activists de-shelve Israeli products from national grocer

Activists remove Israeli products from shelves at a Trader Joe’s on 20 June 2009. (Don’t Buy Into Apartheid)

On Saturday, 20 June, activists gathered at Trader Joe’s in Oakland and San Francisco, US to demand that the company stop carrying Israeli goods.

Protesters removed Israeli products from the shelves in order to show customers which products they should not buy. They also met with the store managers and asked them to notify their headquarters that they no longer wanted to carry Israeli herbs, couscous and cheese. Similar actions were held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Seattle, Washington; and Sacramento, California. The activists were inspired by campaigns to de-shelve Israeli products in Wales and France.

“Trader Joe’s is a company with an excellent reputation for bringing a diverse array of high-quality foods from around the world to US consumers. As Trader Joe’s consumers, we are part of a growing movement of people globally who are calling on businesses to be consistent in following ethical business practices,” said Yasmin Qureshi, an organizer of the Don’t Buy Into Apartheid national network.

The group chose 20 June for its kickoff action because it is World Refugee Day, a day recognized worldwide to spotlight refugees displaced by war and persecution. Of the 11 million refugees in the world today, over seven million are Palestinian refugees displaced as a direct result of the founding of the State of Israel, many displaced for more than 60 years. It is for this reason that Don’t Buy Into Apartheid calls on to Trader Joe’s to discontinue the sales of Israeli Couscous, Dorot frozen herbs, as well as Pastures of Eden Feta cheese.

“Consumer boycotts played an important role in bringing about the end of apartheid in South Africa,” said Sunaina Maira, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies at University of California-Davis. “Corporations with ethical business practices can stop funding injustice and occupation by refusing to sell products made in states that enact racial discrimination and violations of human rights law, such as Israel. The State of Israel was created in 1948 through policies of ethnic cleansing and apartheid, and still continues to violate countless United Nations resolutions. Consumer boycotts are an effective, nonviolent strategy to pressure states to comply with international law.”

The manager at one Trader Joe’s told the activists, “If you convince our customers to stop buying these products, we will stop carrying them.” The group handed out coupons for customers to give to the cashiers asking the store to stop carrying Israeli products.

In 2005, a broad coalition of Palestinian groups issued a call for the international community to place boycott, divestment and sanctions on Israel based on its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and discriminatory laws.

Don’t Buy Into Apartheid’s letter to Trader Joe’s was signed by more than 35 organizations and 135 individuals. The campaign has gained more than 600 members in one month. Trader Joe’s will join them in supporting social justice and racial equality by removing Israeli products from its shelves until Israel agrees to cooperate fully with international law.

This press release was edited for length and clarity.