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By Rhonda J Spivak, B.A., L.L.B.

Although  there were  very small anti-Israel protests outside of  Mountain Equipment Coop [MEC] stores  last Saturday Nov 26  at  the Vancouver store (10 people) and Calgary store (12 people), there were no protesters outside of the  Winnipeg or Toronto stores.

The anticipated protest in Winnipeg was to have been a protest to demonstrate against  MEC selling products from Israel made by  an Israeli company Source-Vagabond.  The Israeli company, with head offices in Haifa, makes seamless underwear, long john’s,  bras , and women’s shirts.  The company is especially known in  Israel for making “shoresh” sandals which are very popular among Israeli youth.

John Girman, product team leader for the MEC store in Winnipeg  told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that, ”There have been no picketers,” and also said that  people had  “come into buy Israeli products,” including hydration systems for back-packs  on both Friday and  Saturday Nov 26-27.

Jewish communities throughout Canada participated in the BUYcott Israel program, by buying Israeli products at MEC  on Nov. 28.

On  Nov 28, a spokesperson at the MEC store in Winnipeg said “people had been coming throughout the  day to buy Israeli products.

In a telephone interview with the Winnipeg Jewish Review, Tim Southam, spokesperson for MEC in Vancouver, said that across Canada “On Nov 28 [the day of the BUYcott] there was a strong demand for Israeli products, in particular men’s and women’s long underwear.”
 “We track sales on a four-week-[28 day] period basis,” Southam said,  “Sixty -nine percent of all men’s long underwear for that four-week period were sold on Sunday,[Nov 28] , and 76 percent of women’s long underwear for this period were also sold on that day.
According to Southam, the BUYcott day accounted for between 16-36% of the total sales of other Israeli products sold in that period.
Southam was unable to give a break down of figures for Winnipeg specifically.

Yoki Gill, a spokesperson for Source-Vagabond, told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that the company has two Palestinian subcontractors it works with in the West Bank, such that any boycott of its goods would also hurt the Palestinian economy.

As Gill stated, “ Our  support of peace includes  having a  subcontract [with a Palestinian company] in Hebron,( doing all our sandal bags), and one in Nablus (doing textile covers for our hydration systems including hydration packs projects we did for the British Army the Swedish Army and the Chez Army).

“We have great personal and business relations with them [our Palestinian subcontractors],” Gill added.
Gill also noted that some of the Source-Vagabond’s employees are Israeli Arabs.
Source-Vagabond’s Mission and Credo Document also says, “We are responsible to exclude all prejudices, in every form, from our working environment.  We will strive to develop an atmosphere free of fear, where equality, respect and liberty are practiced and nurtured.”
The Credo also says,“… we are responsible to actively promote peace in our region by commercial interactions, creation of work opportunities and by a face to face dialog[ue] with our Palestinian neighbors.”

Anita Neville, Liberal Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South Centre said she purchased Israeli products on the day of the BUYcott from MEC to show support for Israel.

“  I want MEC to continue to carry these [high quality] items and know that they are in high demand. The Canada - Israel Free trade Agreement was brought in by a Liberal government and my hope is that trade between the two countries will increase, not diminish. .And probably most importantly, as a member of the Jewish community, I believe it is important to take a stand and tell businesses that what they do - or don't do - matters to us.”
Sheryl Rosenberg, President of the Winnipeg Chapter of Canadian Friends of Hebrew University said, she bought seamless underwear for her sons. “The underwear came in three colours -blue, gray, and black. I also bought an Israeli bra for myself.”
Arthur Liffman said “I bought one long john’s, two underwear, and one long sleeve shirt—all in black except the long john’s were blue !”
Dr. Alan Kraut said he bought underwear, and was told that in the summer the store would also carry Israeli sandals.
An earlier attempt by some MEC members to force MEC to boycott Israeli goods was defeated by MEC members at their annual general meeting last spring.
Southam told the Winnipeg Jewish Reviewt that “It is unlikely that a similar resolution will be brought forward this year. There is no indication at this stage that one will be brought up.”

The Winnipeg Jewish Review receive one email from a Jewish reader who said she supported the boycott of Israeli goods at MEC, but she did not respond when asked to outline her reasons.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.