By Howard English - The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) has deflated the dreams of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) by expressing its unequivocal opposition to political boycotts. The BDS movement seeks to stop the sale of Israeli products, visits by notable Israelis and investments in Israeli companies everywhere in the world. Israel is the only country against which the BDS movement seeks to impose these widespread punitive measures.
In a January 13th statement released by HBC, UJA Federation of Greater Toronto and Canada Israel Committee, the company made it clear that “it has not bowed to political pressure in the past, has not done so now, and will not do so in the future.” The statement went on to say that “HBC neither subscribes to nor endorses politically-motivated boycotts of merchandise from countries with which Canada has open and established trading relationships, including Israel.”
HBC’s anti-boycott declaration followed a concerted campaign by boycott Israel proponents to convince The Bay to permanently discontinue sales of Ahava beauty products for political reasons. Instead, the Bay emphasized that the Ahava line will be unavailable only until the spring when the products will be reformulated and redesigned for a planned relaunch.
Despite the clarity of HBC’s statement, boycott advocates tried to portray events surrounding Ahava and the Bay as a victory.
“So although this is not a BDS victory in Canada, it may well be a worldwide BDS victory,” said the canpalnet Ottawa web site. “The Ahava image is tainted. The campaign against it has been so successful that the distributor has to re-brand the product just like Israel is seeking to re-brand itself.”
Ahava, however, attributes its rebranding effort strictly to the sales objective of expanding its North American markets. “We will be prioritizing North America for growth in 2011 and beyond – it is our largest market outside of Israel and moving forward we aim to push the boundaries and expand further still,” said AHAVA’s CEO, Yacov Ellis.
“There is no defeat from which the boycott Israel forces will not try to desperately extract a victory,” noted Sheldon Goodman, co-chair of UJA Federation’s Committee on Public Affairs.
“For Canada’s flagship retailer to publicly dismiss the boycott serves as an important benchmark for responsible corporate practice,” concluded the chair of CIJA (Canadian Council of Israel and Jewish Advocacy) Steven Cummings. “For those organizations engaged in an obsessive campaign to isolate Israel, it represents a resounding – indeed embarrassing – defeat.”