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Swiss Group Boycotts Israeli and Jewish Products

June 25, 2003
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More than a dozen Palestinian and left-wing organizations in Switzerland are calling for a boycott of Israeli consumer goods to protest Israeli policy toward the Palestinians.

The boycott is aimed not only at Israeli products, but also at products of Jewish-owned businesses.

Organizers concede that the campaign is unlikely to have a significant impact on the Israeli economy, but say it will give Swiss people the chance to make a statement about the situation in the Middle East.

Launched this week in the Swiss capital, Bern, the campaign calls on Swiss consumers to avoid a variety of Israeli brands.

Bruno Vitale, of the Geneva branch of Urgence Palestine, one of the groups supporting the boycott, told Swissinfo that campaigners wanted to encourage debate in Switzerland.

“We are trying to help people think about what they buy and that every day they can make a small political action — even a personal one,” Vitale said at a news conference in Bern.

“The point is to start educating people that political life is everyday life.”

The campaign has aroused the ire of Switzerland’s Jewish community.

Thomas Lyssy, vice president of the Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities, said a boycott would not help the Middle East peace process.

“The question is whether any protest by the Swiss people will help the peace process go on, and I doubt that,” he said. “If some Swiss people think they should not buy Israeli food or flowers, I don’t think that this will have a big impact on the Israeli economy.”

Anna Winkelberg of Zurich told JTA on Monday, “Even 60 years later, I am reminded by this boycott of the Nazi slogan, ‘Do not buy from the Jews.’ “

A few pro-Israel Christians protested the boycott in front of some of the country’s stores, asking customers to sign a declaration of sympathy with Israel.

Some of Switzerland’s larger department stores, shopping outlets and supermarkets told JTA they would not adhere to the boycott.

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