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On World Refugee Day: Trader Joe’s consumers take action for Palestinian rights

Indy Media

20 June 2009

On Saturday, June 20, activists gathered at Trader Joe’s in Oakland and San Francisco 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 deshelve 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 U.S. 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 June 20th for its kickoff action because it is World Refugee Day, a day recognized world wide to spotlight refugees displaced by war and persecution. Of the eleven 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 for over 60 years. It is for this reason that Don’t Buy Into Apartheid calls on to Trader Joes to discontinue the sales of Israeli Couscous, Dorot frozen herbs, as well as Pastures of Eden Feta cheese on June 20, 2009.

“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 U.C. 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 non-violent 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. “We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. These non-violent principled measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality and;
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.”

Don’t Buy Into Apartheid’s letter to Trader Joe’s was signed by over 35 organizations and 135 individuals. The campaign has gained over 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.
For more information on the global boycott of Israeli, see