Israel has won an important victory over the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) when a boycott on the sale of Israeli products in a supermarket chain in Sweden has been cancelled.
The national supermarket chain COOP has 655 branches across Sweden. Israel, that was worried the boycott would spread from three local stores in the city of Varberg to all branches nationwide, launched an impressive media campaign to combat it.
Two and a half months ago, pro-Palestinian organizations submitted a proposal calling to take off the shelves any products manufactured in Israel, including those produced inside the Green Line. This was a mostly symbolic proposal, as the chain only sells avocado and persimmon from Israel.
After the proposal was adopted with a great majority at a local consumer's assembly, Israeli Ambassador to Sweden Isaac Bachman decided, with the help of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, to fight the boycott not with arguments about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - but with arguments against the concept of a commercial boycott.
"We didn't talk about the righteousness of Israel, rather we spoke in the name of fair trade and avoiding discrimination of any state," Bachman explained.
Bachman turned to the company's management, while at the same time pro-Israel activists in Sweden started posting against the supermarket chain's decision on social media. A Swedish businessman opened a Facebook page titled "Opposing the Boycott against Israel," which received 2,500 likes.
The Israeli embassy, meanwhile, posted phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the COOP chain's management and encouraged pro-Israel activists to flood them with messages against the boycott. Thousands of people heeded the call and threatened to boycott the supermarket chain if it continues its boycott against Israel.
"There was a great protest. A lot of people here are against boycotts," Bachman said. "We talked about fair trade. We explained that anyone who supports a boycott hurts the customers and the quality of the products. It resonated with people."
Several days ago, Bachman met with the CEO of the supermarkets chain and asked him to intervene. "They were shocked by the volume of messages they received."
This led the chain's national management to reject the boycott and threaten that if the Varberg stores do not stop the boycott, they will no longer be a part of the chain, effectively putting an end to the boycott.
"The lesson I learned is that we must not, under absolutely no circumstances, give up, and we must launch a counter-campaign," Bachman said. "If you go for the consumer side, without getting into the issue of the conflict, your story would be better and stronger."