Swiss-Palestinian groups demand Israeli boycott

Jaffa oranges are one of the goods being boycotted (Israeli government)

More than a dozen Palestinian and leftwing organisations in Switzerland have called for a boycott of Israeli consumer goods.

This content was published on June 19, 2003

Switzerland's Jewish community has condemned the campaign, saying it would do nothing to help the peace process.

The boycott, which is aimed mainly at food products on Swiss supermarket shelves, is in protest against Israel's policy towards the Palestinians.

Launched this week in the Swiss capital, Bern, the campaign calls on Swiss consumers to avoid a variety of "made in Israel" brands.

The goods include "Carmel" fruit and vegetables, "Osem" snacks, "Jaffa" fruits and juices, as well as toiletries, such as "Epilady" depilation products and cosmetics made from Dead Sea salts. All bear a barcode beginning with the digits "729".

Economic impact

The organisers concede that the campaign is unlikely to have a significant impact on the Israeli economy.

But they claim it will give Swiss people the chance to make a statement about the situation in the Middle East.

Bruno Vitale of the Geneva branch of Urgence Palestine, one of the groups supporting the boycott, told swissinfo that campaigners wanted to encourage debate in Switzerland.

"We are trying to help people think about what they buy and that everyday they can make a small political action - even a personal one," said Vitale.

"The point is to start educating people that political life is everyday life."

Jewish opposition

The campaign has aroused the ire of Switzerland's Jewish community.

Thomas Lyssy, vice-president of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities (SFJC), told swissinfo that a boycott would not help the Middle East peace process.

"The question is whether any protest by the Swiss people will help the peace process go on, and I doubt that," he said.

"If some Swiss people think they should not buy Israeli food or flowers, I don't think that this will have a big impact on the Israeli economy," he added.

Market reaction

Campaign organisers say that most of the goods targeted by the boycott can be bought in Switzerland's leading supermarkets, including Migros and Coop.

Migros - the country's largest supermarket chain - stocks a small selection of goods made in Israel, amounting to 35 product lines.

Spokesman Urs-Peter Naef told swissinfo it was hard to predict how customers might react to the boycott.

"We know that our customers in Switzerland are very much aware of the products they are buying," said Naef.

"We get a lot of emails and phone calls asking why we sell products from areas of the world where people are fighting each other."

The supermarket giant is refusing to take sides and says its aim is to keep as many of its customers as happy as possible.

"Whatever we do, for one side it's wrong and that's why we say we're not going to get involved in politics," added Naef.

swissinfo, Faryal Mirza

In brief

More than a dozen Swiss-Palestinian and leftwing organisations are calling for a boycott of Israeli consumer goods.

The goods in question are mostly food products and include some toiletries.

The organisers want the campaign to continue until the Middle East situation has been resolved.

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