New Internationalist

Boycott meets girl

Issue 423

Shopping causes all sorts of moral dilemmas when goods are labelled ‘West Bank’, bemoans Anna Chen.

Today I did the big shop in Sainsbury’s and found that all their fresh herbs were Israeli. They used to have Spanish and Moroccan herbs as well as homegrown, allowing you at least the illusion of choice. But now the mask has slipped and the gloves are off. If you do not wish to support the state of Israel, and its penchant for pounding the population of Gaza into a greasy smear, you must eat your food without your favourite flavourings. That’s the entire chill cabinet now annexed by an aggressor state. They may as well erect a triumphalist neon sign that flashes ‘Bwa-ha-ha!’ at the hippies, humanitarians and leftists slinking away defeated without their coriander.

One consignment of herbs was labelled ‘West Bank’, which short-circuited my brain. I didn’t know whether buying a ton would help the Palestinians, or whether this would mean my cash flowing straight to some horrible settlers bent on turning the remaining slivers of Palestine into Swiss Cheese, only not as neutral. I picked them up. I put them back. I picked them up. I put them back. I ended up buying packets of inferior dry stuff. ‘Packed in the EU’, the label said, and although it neglected to state where they are actually grown, I can make an educated guess. How I long for the old days when British food didn’t need no steenkin’ herbs and spices but could get by on a cup of salt and a good boiling ’til it was safe.

I complained to a member of staff. He hooted derisively and said, ‘Don’t you know Sainsbury’s is a Jewish company?’ I was going to argue the toss but my Jewish companion was losing the will to live and I hate to see a grown man cry. At least in public.

My only consolation is that, knowing how little supermarket giants pay food producers, the settlers got well and truly ripped off.

Better news from George Galloway MP, who says that while we should boycott something called ‘Israel Shops’ (staffed by Israelis and promoting Israeli/West Bank goods), we don’t have to boycott Marks and Spencers as it is a public company owned by its shareholders and has nothing to do with Israel. Whuh??? This information really scrambles my noggin. But hey — now I can restock on leggings and replace my Holy Drawers.

Anna Chen is a writer, performer and broadcaster.

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This article was originally published in issue 423

New Internationalist Magazine issue 423
Issue 423

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– Emma Thompson –

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