Two can play the boycott game
In recent months, opponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel have begun to turn its tactics against it. In May, the Illinois legislature unanimously approved a bill that barred the state from investing its pension funds in companies that boycott Israel, effectively boycotting the boycotters. The next month, a similar law passed in South Carolina, preventing state agencies from contracting with any business that boycotts others “based on race, color, religion, gender, or national origin.”
Now, the anti-BDS backlash has begun to spread to individual companies. Last night, Yogi Tea announced that it was ending its association with the Rototom Sunsplash Festival in response to the Spanish reggae gathering’s attempt to disinvite American-Jewish artist Matisyahu unless he made his views known on Zionism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The cancellation of the singer’s performance was widely viewed as anti-Semitic and denounced by the Spanish government. In response to the cavalcade of criticism, the festival apologized for its actions, blamed “coercion and threats employed by the BDS País Valencià,” and reinvited Matisyahu.
But Yogi Tea, a 30-year-old brand based in the U.S. and Europe listed as a “technical partner” by Rototom, apparently had enough, and in response to a query on Twitter, said that it would be severing its ties with the festival.
Yogi’s response to BDS, as in the cases of South Carolina and Illinois, shows that two can play at the boycott game—and that when the broader public is engaged on the issue, the anti-Israel side is often hoisted by its own petard.