Campaign wants consumers to buy Israeli products

Though their efforts are coming on the heels of “Black Friday,” organizers of a new nationwide campaign are hoping that consumers will hold on to some of their shopping dollars to show support for Israel.

Jewish newspapers, pro-Israel groups, Israeli companies and retailers are joining together to launch the first Buy Israel Week, which begins Monday, Nov. 28 and continues through Dec. 4. The Nov. 18 issue of j. featured an eight-page “Buy Israel Week” pullout section.

Retailers are offering specials on Israeli goods and nine Jewish metropolitan newspapers, including j., have published or are publishing special supplements. Deals, coupons and contests showcasing the breadth of Israeli products are available at www.buyisraelweek.com.

“From a consumer perspective, Israel is known as a high-tech place,” said Frances Zelazny, a marketer from New York who conceived and organized the campaign. “We want to show some consumer brands, the coolness of the fashion, the food.”

Ahava beauty products have been a favorite target of the BDS campaign.

Buy Israel Week, however, is about more than just encouraging commerce.

Spurred by the debate over Palestinian statehood at the United Nations and ongoing campaigns by pro-Palestinian activists to boycott Israeli goods, Zelazny began contacting potential partners and supporters.

“Not everyone can fly to Israel, or march on Congress, or rally at the U.N.,” said Zelazny, who has been involved in Israel activism. “But people can make a purchasing decision.”

The campaign’s website lists support from businesses such as Jdeal.com, the Israeli national airline El Al and the Dead Sea skin care giant Ahava; Israel trade organizations such as the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce, Manufacturers Association of Israel and the Israel Export Institute; and Jewish organizations such as the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“This is a significant movement because of the growing BDS efforts and the pressures on some Israel goods,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Presidents Conference, which is pushing the campaign on campuses and through its mailing list.

Indeed, some of the participating businesses have been direct targets of the BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions). They include Ahava and stores, such as Bed Bath & Beyond, that sell the cosmetics company’s products.

Some retailers, which had been targeted by BDS activists in the past but continue to stock Israeli goods, nonetheless chose not to participate in Buy Israel Week so as not to attract attention, said Jodi Samuels, the co-founder of Jdeal, which has partnered with Jewish media outlets to find local retailers to participate in the campaign.

“There were some national retailers which had previously been targeted by BDS campaigns, they were nervous about joining the campaign and would rather stay under the radar,” Samuels said.

Although there have been other so-called “buy-cott” campaigns to counter BDS efforts, organizers believe this will be the largest recent effort to promote Israeli goods — and one they hope will be repeated and expanded in years to come.

“The promotion of Israel products isn’t just economical, it’s psychological and political,” Zelazny said. “People see that Israel isn’t isolated; you see the breadth of creativity, the range of products from food to high-tech.

“Instead of buying excellent Chilean wine, they can buy wine from Israel. We want people to next time not buy shoes made in Italy, but in Israel.”