Friday, March 12, 2010

Swedish anti-Israeli activists: “Stop H&M in Israel”

Yesterday about 15-20 Swedish activists demonstrated in Malmö against the opening of H&M stores in Israel. There were also some protests in Göteborg, Stockholm, Lund and Umeå. Most demonstrators were from anti-Israeli organizations but there were also some people from the Swedish Left Party . At the same time, around 40 small organizations from 14 countries in Europe were expected to demonstrate against the Swedish clothing store’s decision to open in Israel.

At the demonstration in Malmö, slogans such as “H&M--Don’t accept the occupation of Palestine,” were chanted by the demonstrators. Maja Backlund who is the spokesperson for the network Isolate Israel was interviewed by southern Swedish newspaper Trelleborgs Allehanda and stated:

“We are against the politics run by the current government, not the actual state of Israel.”

Another demonstrator was Anders Püschel who said “he is not scared that the demonstration will be seen as anti-Semitic.” He also (incorrectly) stated that:

“The country [Israel] is fundamentally racist in an exceptional way. Jews from all around the world are allowed to move there while the non-Jewish groups are denied their rights.”
In Sweden, five organizations which claim that H&M should not be opened in Israel are:

Judar för Israelisk Palestinsk Fred (JIPF)

Palestinska Föreningen i Stockholm

Palestinagrupperna i Sverige (PGS)

Isolera Israel

ISM Sverige

Someone else who wished to air his opinion was the Swedish Israeli-artist Dror Feiler. Feiler is the same man who in 2004 collaborated with his wife Gunilla Sköld Feiler to create the controversial art installation “Snövit och sanningens vansinne” (Snow White and the Madness of Truth) which led to serious diplomatic tension between Israel and Sweden. Sweden’s ambassador to Israel, somewhat defended Feiler, terming Israel’s reaction "a misinterpretation of a piece of art which may very well be in bad taste, very bad taste.”

The installation portrayed a Palestinian suicide bomber floating on a pool of “blood” and was, according to many, a way to glorify Palestinian suicide bombers who attack Israeli civilians.

According to Feiler, the anti-Israeli demonstrations are necessary—if H&M is not boycotted in Israel, local taxes paid on revenues will continue to finance the “occupation” of Palestinian territory.
Obviously, not a lot of people supported this ridiculous boycott of H&M’s Israeli stores. Only some 15 people from these marginal groups showed up in Malmö to demonstrate against the opening. Not even the national press picked up the story. The story was only covered in Trelleborgs Allehanda and Laholms tidning which are published in towns which have 25,000 and 5,000 inhabitants respectively.

Representatives from H&M themselves commented, “H&M is a non-political company and do not take a stance in religious nor political matters. We further think that trade and dialogue promotes development.”

Instead of bashing Israel, which is in fact the only true democracy in the Middle East, these small and petty fringe organizations might have gotten more support if, like H&M, they came up with constructive solutions promoting dialogue and development.

1 comment:

  1. Only Democracy in the Middle East? Israel throws 18 year old men and women in prison for refusing to join the army, which every person is required to do upon adulthood. Deport them, don't throw them in prison, taking away their prime years of life! Not to mention the thousands of innocent Palestinians killed recklessly during attacks, or the massacres where women and children are shot point plank in front of their homes.

    I have no problem with Israel in and of itself, it's the policy they have held for the past 63 years which I have a problem with.