- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
Predictably, Israel’s continued assault in Gaza has led to renewed calls to boycott Israeli products. Everyone has a right to express their political views any way they see fit, but it’s safe to say that some proposed boycotts are less productive than others.
More than 2,000 restaurants in Malaysia have removed coca-cola because of the United States’ support of Israel. The Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association has also pushed for boycotts of Starbucks, Colgate, McDonald’s and Maybelline in order “to protest Zionist cruelty.”
Coca-Cola is a particularly odd target since it’s bottled and sold locally by a Malaysian-owned company, so the activists are really just hurting their own country’s economy. (I remember from college that students campaigning for a campus boycott against “killer coke’s” Latin American business practices faced the same problem.) It’s also ironic given that the company was once criticized as anti-Semitic because of its reluctance to break an Arab League boycott by selling coke in Israel.
The Malaysian boycott seems pretty pointless, but it’s not nearly as sinister as one Italian labor union’s call to boycott “shops in central Rome linked to the Israelite community.” To his credit, Rome’s mayor Gianni Alemanno, an ex-fascist who hasn’t always had the best relations with Italy’s Jewish community, quickly condemned the campaign as reminiscent of 1930s race laws. If only the Italian right was so quick to object when other groups are victimized.