Beating BDS with a Dose of Charity

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By C.S. Teitelbaum

Mishpacha, page 21, 22 Cheshvan 5776/November 4, 2015

British Jewish organisations that used charitable donations to successfully counter anti-Israel   BDS-ers last Chanukah are expanding their work this year beyond England’s shores.

IsrAction Day, scheduled for December 13 with a Chanukah candle lighting ceremony, is designed to encourage the public to purchase Israeli-made non-perishable goods fro supermarkets – especially those targeted by BDS campaigners – and donate them to homeless shelters and food banks in their local communities.

The “beat the boycotts – help the homeless” concept was developed by Brighton-based Sussex Friends of Israel (SFI), but the initial inspiration came fro pro-Israel demonstrators who took leftovers from snacks they had distributed outside BDS-targeted EcoStream (a subdivision of the Israeli SodaStream), and donated them to charities.

Last year, SFI teamed up with Manchester’s North West Friends of Israel (NWFoI), attracting support fro other major organisations such as the Jewish Leadership Council the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the Zionist Federation.

The pilot event also induced many non-Jewish residents revolted by the BDS protests to come on board. Over $1,500 in goods were distributed to homeless charities in Manchester alone, feeding hundreds of hungry recipients in advance of the seasonal holidays, when charities are always financially strained.

In several locations, sighs saying: “Sold out – IsrAction Day” were posted on empty shelves after volunteers bough out the food in stock. The irony was not lost on volunteers who well remember the clean shelves that shocked customers at a London branch of Sainsbury’s Supermarket earlier in the years, when the store temporarily puled its Israeli goods in reaction to BDS threats.

Like-minded groups in the United States, Europe ad South Africa have approached IsrAction organizers in an effort to adapt the charitable event to their countries. Activist in several communities have already arranged for their supermarkets to donate Israeli products to local food banks. Where Israeli products are not available, volunteers are advised to donate any kosher products “in the spirit of IsrAction Day.”

“It’s a triple-win situation,” Dr. Winston Pickett of SFI told Mishpacha, “Every Jew has that tzedakah reflex, and her you’re countering the BDS while helping the homeless and supporting Israel. Isn’t that spreading the Chanukah light?”