A cheesy straw?
Photo: Ben Kelmer

Let them eat cheese

Op-ed: Israelis join ‘cottage cheese boycott’ en masse, but what about worthier causes?

Cottage cheese, it has all come down to cottage cheese; some 60,000 members have joined a page on Facebook in less than a week. Don't get me wrong, just because I don't like cottage cheese doesn't mean I negate other peoples' right to purchase it at an affordable price.


I am also very happy to see that Israelis are finally making use of social networks to promote popular protest and stand up for our democratic rights, be they our rights as consumers to receive products at a fair price or the basic right that allows us to protest to begin with.


Yet I am also growing more and more disillusioned with our society; a society where a page to boycott cottage cheese due to inflated prices has thousands of members supporting and "liking" the cause while a page asking to help and protest on behalf of Holocaust survivors living beneath the poverty threshold has only 24 supporters.


And while I'm sure Holocaust survivors would appreciate a cap or even a decrease on cottage cheese prices, I doubt anyone took their views on the subject into consideration when they clicked the "Like" button.


There are many issues that could have been the focus of popular protest. I wonder how many "Likes" the anti-bus segregation page would have gotten or the rights and benefits for people serving in the reserves page, the page for women who are refused a divorce by their husbands... so many causes, but few supporters to be had.


Doctors and nurses would surely be happy to know there is a page supporting their recent protest, it even has 8,000 "Likes", that's more than 10% of the number of people supporting the cottage cheese boycott.


Sacred duty

So why cottage cheese? Why was this the so-called “straw that broke the camel's back?” Perhaps the answer to this question lies in the simple fact - like the cheese itself, the cause is bland.


No one need fear a backlash from either Left or Right, there are no religious consequences and other than "minor" economic issues which the cause has yet to delve into, there are very few political consequences - everyone can support this cause, even politicians. They can even find a target at which to point the finger of blame - Israel's dairy industry - increasing prices in the local market where it has a monopoly while exporting the very same products at ridiculously low prices.


Israelis in 2011 find it too hard to bridge the many growing gaps that separate our society - religious and secular, Left and Right, rich and poor; our inability to see beyond the things that separate us has made us weak as an involved public.


Consumer boycotts are essential and should garner public support but a truly democratic society cannot survive on cottage cheese alone. At some point the controversial issues need to be addressed, be it a woman's right to sit at the front of the bus, or the rights of a Holocaust survivor to live out his final years in comfort with adequate medical care.


Israelis must make a concerted effort to once again become the public willing to face down contention and remember that protesting is not only our right, sometimes it is our sacred duty.




פרסום ראשון: 06.16.11, 18:05
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