May 29th, Portland, OR— Shoppers at Portland’s Concordia New Seasons were greeted with an unexpected performance this afternoon when about two dozen Portlanders broke into song and dance. “New Seasons, you say you’re local but you buy into Israeli occupation,” participants sang, referencing the 19 Israeli products New Seasons carries. The flash mob, coordinated by the Portland BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) Coalition, was part of an ongoing campaign calling on New Seasons to stop selling Israeli products.
“New Seasons cannot claim to be friendly and local while it continues to stock products made by Israel, a gross violator of international law,” said Wael Elasady, member of Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights and flashmob participant. “There’s a glaring discrepancy between their ethical image and the products they profit from.”
The now-burgeoning BDS Coalition, endorsed by groups such as Jews for Global Justice and the ILWU Local 5, has submitted a petition with over 500 signatures from New Seasons shoppers. The petition asks New Seasons to respect the boycott call issued by Palestinian civil society in 2005, and stop selling Israeli products until Israel complies with international humanitarian and human rights law. Additionally, hundreds of customers have submitted “comment cards” supporting the boycott.
New Seasons has been under recent scrutiny for its decision to remove photographs by Jewish artist Stephen Kerpen. Images of Palestinians and Bedouins from Kerpen’s recent trip to Israel and the West Bank were removed by New Seasons management just hours after being installed in the Seven Corners’ local artists gallery. Kerpen was told that the abrupt reversal came in response to the complaint of a single customer.
“New Seasons immediately removed Stephen’s images after one complaint, yet refuses to address the hundreds of customers who have supported the boycott,” said Elasady. “The store chose to stop selling Rockstar energy drink on ethical grounds, so the precedent for this type of action has been set. It’s time for New Seasons to live up to its image and respect the demands of hundreds of customers.”
The Portland BDS Coalition is part of the growing international movement calling for a boycott of Israel until it complies with international humanitarian and human rights laws. The Palestinian-led BDS movement is a moral, nonviolent campaign for human rights modeled on the worldwide boycott movement that helped to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.