Israel boycott rejected by MEC members

Phew. What a night.

Mountain Equipment Co-op’s (MEC) AGM (annual general meeting) was to be held this evening at 6pm. Doors open at 5:15. I’d preached all of last week about the importance of attending in order to show support to Israel because a group of MEC members (anyone who shops there is a member) were going to bid a motion to boycott Israeli products from the store since we’re just so horrible.

But come this afternoon at 4:30, I was walking along Fraser Street doing some shopping and thinking that the last thing I felt like doing was going to a hate fest. I was exhausted just from the thought of being surrounded by all these people who hate me.

I arrived at home, practically convinced that it was OK if I just stayed home until I realized that there were things I wanted even less than to be in a room of Israel/Jew haters, and that was for their motion to pass and for there to be a lack of support for Israel in the room. What if everyone else also decided not to go because it’s too stressful or they’re just too tired?

So I stuffed some cereal down my throat and rushed out to catch the bus downtown, feeling terrible nervousness.

I arrived at 5:45 which, apparently, was too late. There was a bit of a line-up left outside the Simon Fraser Business School building on Granville and some protesters hanging around. I recognized people from Vancouver’s Hillel, the Federation, and I think the Canada-Israel Committee. The doors were closed to the building and they were telling us that they’d just about reached capacity. They let in another nine people and said that was it. I left the line, so relieved that I’d tried but failed to get in. Good for the conscience, good for the emotional health.

Suddenly the doors were opened again and a bunch of people were let in. I quickly resumed position and slipped in with a friend.

The room was packed and stuffy and the meeting began in typical AGM style (I’ve never been to an AGM, I’m just guessing). Voting on if it was OK to breath or not, speeches about topics distant from my heart, especially while I looked around, trying to figure out who is one what “side”.

Finally, after over an hour, they introduced the motions put forward by members. The Israel-boycott one was the second out of three motions. When it finally was mentioned, people woke up and started listening more intently.

There was a microphone set up on each side of the room. The left side was for the leftists (really!) and the right side was for the people who are right (as in correct). The guy who’d sent in the bid was given some time to explain his position. He kept mentioning South African and apartheid.

Then, on the opposite side of the room, someone was able to counter the arguments or just talk about their opinions on the topic. There was a line up of around 10 people on both sides, of people hoping to get a chance to speak. All in all, four people were given a chance to speak on each side.

The anti-Israel/supposedly pro-Palestinians bashed Israel, said how evil and destructive we are and how cruel we were for not “helping” the Palestinians and for killing so many of them and oppressing them. They threw out numbers of how ny maUN laws we break, etc. etc. The second guy on that side to get up was Jewish. When he introduced himself and said his name, a semi-uproar went up in the room, Jews feeling appauled that a Jew was on that side, even though we all know that exists.

The pro-Israel/MEC policy side (meaning the right side) was OK. I can’t really remember what they said. I did not find them too convincing. Some of their arguments irked me and I constantly regretted not having the guts to have prepared something to say “from the heart.” The last guy to speak from the “good guys” was good. He worked for MEC at some point or something so it felt more meaningful and he knew what he was talking about. He said that MEC’s policy is not to boycott countries (unless Canada or the UN do) and only to deal with each individual company. He said, if there is a problem with the actual company, then it should be discussed. So basically, if this motion was against Israel, then it didn’t fit within MEC policy so there was nothing to talk about.

Then the voting began. “Those in favour raise your orange paper.”

So many hands went up! It was scary and disheartening. So many people in that room wanting to boycott Israel?

It took a couple of minutes for people to walk up and down the isles and count the voters.

“Those against…”

At least twice the number of hands went up. “Oh, thank God!” I actually said out loud, in a sigh. I got shivers and teary-eyed. I was so touched! It felt like such a victory, all of us sitting there in the boiling room, holding our hands up to keep doing business with Israel. Not willing to go where these Israel-haters want us to go.

One woman couldn’t find her paper. She literally started freaking out. I didn’t really understand that since it was totally obvious that we’d won. But she couldn’t get over it. She was looking everywhere for it. Suddenly, one of the guys that had voted for the boycott, turned around and gave her his piece of paper. It was so nice of him and I hated him for it. : )

Our hands got tired as it took a while for the voters to be counted. The number was so much higher than the left’s side. We spoke amongst ourselves, feeling in much higher spirits after all the stress leading up to that moment. People were making jokes, switching hands, though never, God forbid, lowering the orange paper, even for a second.

The whole experience was so intense. The anti-Israel side’s arguments didn’t hurt me as much as I thought they would, because they were just so ridiculous and obviously anti-Semitic. There are so many better places to put your energy. It makes no sense. But it still just hurts to be hated.

Either way, tonight we had a sweet victory. It felt wonderful and hopeful and that is why I was so touched, looking around the room at all the hands up in the air to keep the Israeli products on the shelf. Maybe people are able to see that it is hatred these people are trying to spread, not, as they claimed, an attempt “to leave a better world behind.”


25 thoughts on “Israel boycott rejected by MEC members

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  1. Kol Hakavod for going and showing support! Good things happen when you do the things that you set out to do.

  2. Good comments. i was there,surrounded by people who claim to be pro jewish but anti israel. of course, to be anti-israel is, as you say, anti-semitic.

    btw, i counted maybe 50 pro-resolution votes.


  3. I’m very proud of you for going. As I was reading your description of why you weren’t going to go, I was thinking, “Deena! What if everyone feels that way?!” Kol Hakavod!

    And thank you for writing about it. I didn’t think in terms of a good outcome of the hate talk: that people there would see this was about hate, and not about improving the lives of a people. I hope it had that effect on the people who were in the middle on this, and b”H, some of those people will go out and properly educate themselves on the issue.

    And I hope that the man with the Jewish name who was on the wrong side of this issue makes peace with himself someday.

    1. Thanks Alissa! As you can tell, it was not easy to go, but I’m glad I did. And, as I said to Jeff above, I’m glad it’s over, at least for now.

  4. Wow Dee. That’s pretty intense, but it’s so good you went.

    I know it seems like we’re fighting a major uphill battle, but I do believe that it’s important to us to speak out, even if we only succeed in persuading one person of our position because every person counts. So kol hakavod.

  5. Sorry folks… they still won. Do you think MEC, or any company, enjoys being painted with the “you’re supporting (insert accusation here)” brush? No. And companies will think twice before dealing with Israel. We live in a secular, left-ish climate. And profit is the standard by which companies will choose certain suppliers over other suppliers.

    I wouldn’t get too excited about the outcome.

    Debbie Downer (Male Version)

    1. Avrum,

      Sheesh. Listen, of course this isn’t the end and it’s not a 100% victory but it’s something. Each battle stands alone and is won or lost. And then there is also the big war that all these battles are a part of. Believe me, it was a great feeling to have all those hands go up. That is a victory.

      I hope we’ll get stronger and people will start ignoring these crazios.

  6. I would have loved to have gone and kicked some serious toches, but I’m not an MEC member.

    I’m not sure everyone wanting to boycott Israel actually *hate* Jews. Some might just really be opposed to what they think the reality is
    over in the Middle East. How many people are well-informed about other countries and conflicts which aren’t their own anyway? The media pays so much more attention to what goes on in Israel than other places, so people pay more attention to the conflict there (we never hear much about all of the attrocities in Africa or Southern Asia, for example). This might be part of the reason why Israel is always bizarrely singled out (of course, there’s always good ol’ fashioned anti-semitism too)…

    I am also critical of Israel sometimes…but I do it out of love and not from whatever place these people are coming from. Anyway, the guy who passed his card to the pro-Israel woman when she couldn’t find hers obviously isn’t anti-semitic. He probably sees Israel as an apartheid regime
    and feels he is taking on the most important human rights case in the world, given the vast media coverage Israel gets. He probably doesn’t want to see Israel *destroyed* but he probably feels sanctions would improve the lives of Palestinians who are suffering and who are in more desperate circumstances than Israelis generally are. The Palestinians *are* oppressed. But the issue goes much deeper than that. Of course Israel has a right to protect itself and its citizens from terror. Does this mean Israel always does the right thing? Of course not – no one side in a war ever does the right thing 100% of the time. But Israel has also been placed in an impossible situation (I’ll stop with the mental ping-pong now, I could go on for hours).
    He’s not really digging any deeper than that. The thing is, with people like Ahmadinejad being allowed to preach from podiums at anti-racism conferences (what a joke), even though his views are so whackjob extreme – the more legitimate forums he is given to voice them mean they become more mainstream and acceptable.
    So I think more lame boycotts will be in our future, whatever the reasons. There’s not much justice in the world regarding any situation out there, so I wouldn’t look for it here.

    1. Melissa,

      There is an ongoing debate: Is anti-Israel anti-Semitic. I believe yes. I suppose there are people out there who honestly just don’t realize they’re grossly misinformed and that a crazy dispproportionate amount of media time/energy goes to Israel, as you said, which makes people think it’s way worse than it is.


      To begin with, why does the media give so much coverage to Israel? Are they also not responsible for their actions but are are also being misinformed by some higher media? I believe that somewhere along the line, this whole thing begins with anti-Semitism.

      And I admit that I believe that pretty much anyone wanting to boycott Israel is probably anti-Semitic themselves. It’s one thing to have issues with some things about Israel – as you said you have and of course I do too. It’s a whole other thing to believe you are so well informed that you know it’s a good idea to boycott a whole country. That is very extreme! It’s almost like we get used to these extreme things so that they don’t seem so extreme anymore.

      Anyway, I do believe that anti-Israel is the modern anti-Semitic. It’s masked. Ahmadinejad being given the opportunity to speak at the UN shouldn’t be creating more acceptance of him but less acceptance of the UN. To see Ahmadinejad as more acceptable just because an international body allowed him to express himself, I believe, would be illogical, hateful, or plain naive.

      The end of this rant. On to the next.

  7. I believe this was a small but important victory! The Israeli product that MEC has, sells very well and for the company that is what really counts. I am sure they are more than happy that they can keep making a profit with it. At one point all those anti Israel activists will get tired of trying to boycott Israel in one way or another. So let’s not stop being actives ourselves in helping Israel from here.

    1. Hey Gabriel,

      I see this as a victory of a battle in a bigger war. These people made it clear at the meeting that they will continue to fight. I believe them 100%. I love the video that “teaches” you how to properly boycott Israel. (

      It is a ridiculous thing to be boycotting us and hopefully you are right that they’ll tire of it. I am not sure, though, that this will be the case, since hate is a strong thing.

      Be well.

  8. Thank you, Deena, for representing!

    I wanted to be there, but had to work manning an emergency medical line!

    Good job!

    Your documenting of your experience was really well done — I got some sense of what it was like to be there! :)

    It’s so sad that, thousands of years since we began as a distinct group, humanity still hasn’t learned to accept ALL people, regardless of whether they bow down to your every little custom. . . This, to me, is the true meaning of Hanukah AND Pesach — to declare the right of freedom for ALL people!

    Israel exists for the rights of “Palestinians” and the hundreds of other Arabs immigrating INTO Israel every year, because in the Middle East ONLY Israel stands up for democracy, religious freedom, & women’s equality!

    We PROMOTED statehood for Palestinians(ex-patriot Jordanians & Syrians, really!) on ONE condition: agree to stop killing Jews and accept our right to coexist!

    They said no (withg missiles & bombs, so we’d not think their response was in any way ambiguous) :(

    1. Thanks T.N.O. for your response! I’m really happy I was able to give people a taste of what it was like to be there. Yes, it is sad that we still have to go through these things.

  9. Melissa,
    The thing is this: when one country is unfairly singled out a disproportionate amount….it’s SOMETHING. Anti-Semitic, bigotry, discrimination, WHATEVER. When atrocities are happening all over the world, when its neighbors are committing ridiiiiiculous human rights violations and not giving its own citizens a percentage of the rights that Israel gives its citizens (including Israeli Arabs!), it is ______ (choose your own label). Joe Lefty would appear to care about his cause more more believably if he held his same ideals across all situations around the world.


  10. “To begin with, why does the media give so much coverage to Israel?”

    * Because Israelis are white-ish
    * Because of the military alliances between US/Israel, and once upon a time France/Israel
    * Because they are a success
    * Because they claim to be a democracy (though the Law of Return, and certain policies favoring Jewish Israelis vs Arab Israelis make this a tenuous claim)
    * Because we imply that our army is more ethical than other armies – a mistake IMHO
    * Because of European/American guilt for the creation of Israel

    The point is… it’s much more complex than throwing around the “anti-Semitism” card.

  11. Avrum, whatever antisemitism exists at each point of time, you can give a nice list, like the one you’re giving here, of supposedly why the hate exists. Problem is that it just doesn’t fly because they contradict each other. Or, they seem to just be excuses to admit the hate.

    1) Too segregated
    2) Too integrated
    3) Too rich
    4) Too poor
    etc etc.

    Now, in my opinion, the currently antisemitism is anti-Israelism. So we make a list of reasons why they hate us this time. To me it’s not convincing.

  12. I only read the follow-up comments on this just now…sorry for the delay.

    Deena – I agree it’s totally bizarre of the world media to single out Israel. My point was because of this, many people are lead to the wrong conclusions. I was not in any way accepting this extremism, but in my opinion this is why many people who aren’t really anti-semitic want to boycott Israel – such as the guy in the meeting you mentioned. The average person doesn’t really look so far beyond their own front yard when it comes to world issues. It’s VERY dense, yes, but I think it happens a lot. Personally, I think the vast majority of the time anti-Israel sentiment is anti-semitism, yes, but not always.

    Hey Benji! I didn’t say it was OK to ignore everyone else and single out Israel and that it wasn’t anti-semitic/discriminatory etc… My point was the media is presenting an unbalanced image overall, leading many people to the wrong conclusions who aren’t necessarily anti-semitic – such as the guy in the meeting. I’m also not saying that anti-Israel sentiment isn’t anti-semitic most of the time – I happen to believe it is. But the guy Deena referred to, in my opinion, isn’t an anti-semite. :-)

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