09 January, 2009

Of boycotting and Anti-Israel protests

If only boycotts of goods and services from some countries and buying Malaysian goods instead could be that simple.

Groups and individuals advocating such a boycott may have the best intentions but seriously, does it work? There are bloggers calling for a boycott who forget they are using Facebook, Goggle and their sleek US-made computers. They then have their McDonalds and Coke. Of course, they switch on to CNN and listen to Larry King, a Jew, for the latest updates on Gaza. Then they watch more Hollywood movies produced by Jewish film makers. It's easier say than done.

While at first glance these noble exhortations – or at least nobly motivated ones – seem the right thing to do, their practice is far more difficult, and at the end of the day they are merely symbolic and may even do more harm than good.

Let’s take the proposed boycott of US goods first. The US is a very large economy, the largest in the world. Products originating from the US go into all kinds of things and facilities. Is it a complete boycott of everything US that we are looking to?

"As everybody else, we are deeply touched by the human side of the situation in the Middle East," Kadri Taib, Coca-Cola Malaysia public affairs and communications director, said in a statement.

"Given the local nature of our business, we believe that calls for boycotts of our products are not the appropriate way to further any causes, as they primarily hurt the local economy, local businesses and local citizens."

It said the beverage company employs some 1,700 Malaysians, 60% of whom are Malay Muslims, who dominate the multicultural nation's population.

A boycott of U.S.-made goods and firms including Coca-Cola and Starbucks Corp. (SBUX) has been called by Muslim groups who are planning a protest Friday at the National Mosque in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

The boycott, aimed at U.S. support of Israel that has mounted the offensive in Gaza, is spearheaded by the Malaysian Islamic Consumers Association as well as the Muslim Restaurant Operators Association, which has removed Coca-Cola from the menu at thousands of eateries.

"We hope the Muslim consumers will fully take part so it will send a clear signal to Israel and its allies not to continue to torture Muslims," the Consumers Association said in a statement.

Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad has also called for a global boycott of the U.S. dollar and U.S. products in protest over Washington's support of Israel.

Meanwhile, thousands of people took part in a mammoth rally after Friday prayers that ended up with flag-burning outside the US Embassy in Jalan Tun Razak to protest the Israeli attack on the Palestinian homeland, according to Malaysiakini.

Since Israel has no ties with Malaysia, the protestors ended their march at the embassy as the US is a strong ally of Israel. The US had abstained from voting for the UN resolution for a ceasefire which all the other 14 security council members supported.

A 15-member delegation led by PAS vice-president Husam Musa submitted a memorandum to an embassy official. US and Israel flags were set alight there.

At the same time, some 500 people gathered at the National Mosque after prayers where Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and his son Mukhriz addressed the crowd, asking them to boycott US currency and goods, as well as Israeli-made goods.

Mahathir also urged people to quit their jobs in American companies.



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