Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Boycott hypocrisy and the courage of one's convictions

I recently sent the following letter to the board of the Olympia Food Co-op, upon hearing that it had decided to boycott Israeli products. I have yet to receive a response.

A colleague recently made me aware of the board's decision to boycott Israeli products. I understand that the board has undertaken this decision for what it sees as moral and just reasons. I would ask, though, for some clarification, as I am writing an article for an international publication about the issue. The points I would hope to see some response on are:

1. Does the co-op intend to stop using cellular telephone technology? Given the fact that much of the technology in cell phones right up to and including 3G and 4G phones was developed in Israel, It would seem to be hypocritical and morally incoherent to benefit from a country's technological know-how while refusing to sell its products.

2. Does the co-op intend to stop using any Intel-based chips (essentially any PC desktops or laptops, such as any core-duo, centrino, Pentium)? Every generation of Intel chips and those based upon the Intel chip designs for the last 15 years was either wholly or partly developed in Israel. The same goes for IM, ICQ, and other messaging software, as well as Windows XP. Has the co-op determined to meet the moral obligations of the BDS movement by refusing to use these technologies?

3. Does the co-op intend to stop using USB key drives, invented in Israel? How about voice mail, conceived and developed first in Israel? Like many retailers, your stores may use scanning technology likely developed by world leader Retalix, from Israel. Will you replace these systems?

4. Are the members of the board prepared to utilize substandard medical imaging in the unfortunate event that a loved one needs or has needed a diagnosis? Israeli technology permeates the field of diagnostic medical imaging, such as MRI, CT and other scanning technology. Many of the leading therapies for diseases such as cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Multiple Sclerosis have been developed in Israel. Will the members of the board be certain to refuse treatment for their loved ones with these therapies?

These are some of the practical questions my readers would like to see clarified. You will no doubt agree that it is important to have the courage of one's convictions in taking steps such as boycotts. Perhaps you could respond to this email before throwing out your computer and your cell phone.

I also hoped that the board could illuminate my readers and the buying public on a number of philosophical issues that the boycott brings up.

1. Given the record of China in destroying Tibetan culture, killing tens of thousands of Tibetans, suppressing and killing indigenous Uighur Muslims; given its suppression of Christian practice and congregation; given its support for the genocidal regime in Sudan that has killed hundreds of thousands in Darfur; and given its complete disregard for the irreparable damage its energy, manufacturing, and infrastructure projects continue to wreak on the planet, has the board determined to boycott Chinese-made products and products with parts made in China? Considering the scale of havoc and destruction is hundreds if not thousands of times greater than that which Israel stands accused of in your eyes, does it not create even a scintilla of discomfort for the board to ignore such egregious harm while addressing the Israeli-Palestinian dispute?

2. Has the board addressed the occupation of the Olympia region and the displacement of the native Coastal Salish indigenous peoples by Edmund Sylvester and his compatriots in the 1840s and 50s? Would it not follow the clear spirit of the BDS movement and the theme of occupation the board has accepted for the Olympia Co-op to remove itself to lands not claimed by indigenous peoples such as outlined in Miller's "Be of Good Mind" (2008, Washington University Press)?

3. Has the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus occasioned a boycott of Turkish merchandise? Have the continuing French colonial occupations of the South Pacific occasioned a boycott of French merchandise? The list, as I am sure you can imagine, is long. But the question is, has the board acted in a just and equitable fashion by not acting on these issues as well?

I thank you in advance for taking the time to read and hopefully to respond to these questions, asked in earnest and addressing the members honorably. I look forward to your considered response.