For the week ending 2 July 2011 / 29 Sivan 5771

Boycottage Cheese Rebellion

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Become a Supporter Library Library

In the tense atmosphere of a nation surrounded by enemies who wish to destroy it, Israel almost welcomes issues that provide an almost comic relief from worrying about where the next security or diplomatic crisis will come from.

Perhaps this explains why the local media gave so much coverage to a consumer boycott against the country's three major dairies when it was discovered that cottage cheese was so much more expensive in Israel than in other countries. While the government debated restoring price control on dairy products or promoting competition by importing such products from Europe, the supermarkets offered bargains on their cottage cheese rather than have it spoil on their shelves.

What began as a boycott on cottage cheese has developed into a public awareness of being ripped off by a combination of manufacturer monopolies and government taxation. The reason it took so long for the public to wake up is that people were too busy enjoying the quantity and quality of the foods available in Israel to bother examining the price they paid.

Israel did not, however, invent the wheel. Boycotts have been around for a long time, many of them successful. The most famous ones in the past century were the boycott of public transportation in Alabama which brought the civil rights movement to its finest hour, the boycott of Coca Cola when it tried to change the taste of its classical drink, and the international boycott of the South African government which brought an end to apartheid.

There is no need to trace boycotts only to such recent history. In our halachic sources we find that boycotts on the purchase of fish for Shabbat meals were mandated if the sellers raised the price too high. (See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 242:1, the commentary of Be'er Heitev)

Boycotts such as the above-mentioned were usually based on moral grounds. The boycott which the Arab states have consistently imposed on the Jewish state is, however, an unjustified expression of ethnic discrimination and, thank Heaven, has not achieved its purpose.

May we conclude by suggesting that the international community declare a boycott on all the countries and groups practicing and promoting terror. Perhaps such an initiative will yield more practical progress towards peace than all the negotiations which have proven to be exercises in futility.

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