Friday, December 4, 2009

US Campaign Steering Committee member tells Columbia Sportswear to stop marketing to settlers...and they listen!

Last week, US Campaign Steering Committee member Adam Horowitz posted a report on Mondoweiss about Columbia Sportswear's efforts to market to settlers in Israel with an advertising campaign boasting that Columbia clothing is "Suitable for active work in various regions, including outposts." The term "outposts"--"gvaot" (or "hills") in Hebrew--is a code term, used to describe new "seedbed" settlements that are often started by the most extreme right-wing of the Israeli settler movement. All settlement colonies are illegal under international law; many such outposts are illegal even under Israeli occupation "law" : US Campaign Steering Committee member Peter Miller, who is part of Portland-based US Campaign member group Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, decided he couldn't give Columbia a pass on this one. He contacted Columbia with his concerns...and, to his surprise, they listened! Columbia responded the next day and announced that they will discontinue the ad campaign, effective immediately. Here are the emails:
"Customer (Peter Miller) 12/02/2009 07:36 AM December 2, 2009
Dear Columbia Sportswear -
I have purchased your products for many years. I was dismayed to learn recently that your clothing was advertised in Israel as "Suitable for active work in various regions, including outposts." The word "outpost" is rather unique to Israel and it means a specific thing: an illegal settlement colony planted, against international law and in violation of Palestinian human rights, right in the middle of Palestinian land. Outposts are created by radical, right-wing Jewish Israeli settlers. Unfortunately, these settlers have the tacit and often explicit support of the Israeli government. The outposts are a direct violation of the fourth Geneva conventions as well as the so-called "road map to peace" and numerous other documents and declarations. The UN Security council calls the Israel’s settlements "a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention." And the outposts represent the vanguard of these settlements. The "active work" these settlers are engaged in is increasing Israel’s hold on Palestinian land, making future peace and a just resolution impossible. The "active work" is part of Israel’s setting up of an Apartheid system, ruling over the Palestinians who are crowded into smaller and smaller areas, who are separated from each other by Settler roads, separation walls, settlements, military checkpoints, and forbidden zones.
I sincerely hope that Columbia Sportswear is not in the business of supporting these outposts and I ask that you investigate how your products are being promoted in Israel. I ask that you not promote your products in this manner and that you not attempt to promote your products in support of illegal activities and human rights violations. I, for one, don’t want to be associated with "outposts." I do not wish to wear clothing if it is being promoted as being "suitable for active work" in "outposts".
I would be happy to discuss with you the issues involved with these outposts. I give you some background information below including a links to an article depicting the offensive ad.
Peter Miller
"Israel’s settlements are on shaky ground" International law mandates that they must be removed and that the Palestinians should be compensated for their losses. By Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, from The LA Times
"Columbia Markets to the Active Settler on the Go" The Hebrew translation of outposts there is "gvaot" (hills) a euphemism for the illegal outposts populated by the "hilltop youth", notorious for their violence against Palestinian civilians. By Adam Horowitz"
And Columbia Sportswear’s response:
"Response 12/03/2009 04:20 PM Thank you for bringing this advertisement to our attention and for sharing your concerns with us.
We investigated and determined that neither the original Hebrew text of the ad created by our independent Israeli distributor, nor the erroneous English translation supplied by the newspaper, was submitted to or approved by Columbia Sportswear as called for by our standard practices.
Columbia Sportswear and our Israeli distributor have agreed to immediately and permanently discontinue the ad, as well as to reinforce our standard pre-approval practices pertaining to all marketing materials in order to avoid such unfortunate errors in the future.
We value your input and we take all customer feedback seriously. While we cannot always promise specific changes, we do consider and incorporate comments from customers like you when planning our marketing communications for the future.
Thank you for caring. We hope we can count on your ongoing support."
Of course, we all would love for Columbia's response to have been "Wow, this settlement stuff is messed up, what can we do about it?" But the fact that the ad was not approved, and was so quickly discontinued, seems to indicate a tacit admission that supporting such illegal apartheid activity in your ad slogans is beyond the pale for this company. We may never get the full on apology that we want from any corporate supporters of the Israeli occupation, but every victory for accountability counts! When we take the time to write letters, attend shareholder meetings, and do the tough work of holding corporations and governments accountable, we never know when our efforts will pay off. Good work, Peter! Now, let's make sure that no company can get away with supporting Israeli settlements and Israeli occupation--starting with Motorola. Take action today to let the U.S. Department of Energy know about Motorola's support for human rights abuses and violations of international law and demand that they end a $900,000 contract they are set to award to Motorola Israel. If one email can get Columbia to stop advertising to the worst of the settler movement, then civil society pressure can get Motorola and other corporate criminals to end their overt support of occupation and apartheid.