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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

BDS or strategy? Nike’s move to end Israel sales prompts questions on ‘motives’

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The latest move is expected to cause a significant loss to Israeli retailers. 

Sports retail giant Nike has announced that it will terminate all sales with retailers in Israel, in a move that sparked questions over the company’s motives.

“Following a comprehensive review performed by the company and considering the changing marketplace, it has been decided that the continuation of the business relationship between you and the company does no longer match the company’s policy and goals,” Nike said in a letter sent to store owners on Sunday.

Read also: UN begins distribution of Qatar cash aid to Gaza

Nike’s latest measure, set to come into effect on May 31 2022, was welcomed by social media users around the globe and hailed as a victory for the international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

However, the company’s decision was allegedly made in line with its global plan to reduce the number of stores it works with to instead focus on its website and company-owned stores. This allows the sports giant to increase profits by controlling its premium product experience itself.

Questions regarding Nike’s motives have prompted an online debate, but regardless of the reason, it deals a major blow to all sports stores in Israel.

“While the company doesn’t frame its decision as specifically tied to Israel’s apartheid practices, it told store owners that its relationship “no longer matched the company’s policies and goals,” Palestinian-American rights activist and attorney, Palestinian American Huwaida Arraf said.

“Before celebrating these headlines look at the finer details. It is only ending sales through other retailers. Nike has a global plan of reducing the numbers and directing customers to its own Nike stores, which they have many in Israel,” another Twitter used said.

The move comes months after Israeli forces carried out a series of crackdowns on Palestinians at the Al Aqsa mosque and the Damascus Gate in Occupied Jerusalem.

This eventually culminated in an all-out Israeli offensive of the Gaza Strip that targeted civilian homes and infrastructure and killed more than 260 Palestinians, including 66 children.

Around 2,000 homes were destroyed and some 22,000 properties were partially damaged, leaving tens of thousand of Palestinians displaced.

In light of that offensive, and amid heightened global focus on Israeli crimes in Palestine, ice cream giant Ben & Jerry’s made global headlines for bringing to an end all operations in occupied Palestinian territories.

At the same time, Qatar Youth Opposed to Normalisation [QAYON] called for boycotting sports giant Puma, urging football fans to apply pressure on their local clubs due to its involvement with Israel.

“[Puma] is involved in supporting the crimes of the occupying Zionist entity. This is exemplified by its sponsorship of the Football Association, which represents the occupation, and of a number of Zionist entity’s clubs that practice their activities in the settlements built on the occupied Palestinian territories,” read one part of the letter.

The letter went on to explain the importance of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] movement in light of recent Israeli attacks on Palestinians, noting that more than 200 other sports clubs have called on Puma to disengage from the Israeli Football Association.

Following national outrage, Qatar Sports Club responded saying it has no plans to renew its contract with global sportswear manufacturer Puma amid local and international calls for boycott.

Puma’s Israeli involvement

According to the global Boycott Divest & Sanctions Movement [BDS], Puma is the only international sponsor of the Israel Football Association [IFA], which hosts six clubs in Israeli settlements in the West Bank deemed illegal under international law.

This enables clubs to play games on unlawfully seized lands belonging to Palestinians, who are prohibited from entering  to participate in any sporting activity.

Its involvement in supporting the forced dispossession of Palestinians and the illegal occupation constitutes a clear violation of human rights. Funding Israel further allows it to carry out its injustices against Palestinians and expand its settlements.

The IFA itself has refused to end its complicity with human rights violations against Palestinians and has been condemned by rights groupsUN officials as well as several public figures.

Read also: Qatar football clubs urged to boycott Puma over Israeli violations

Contrary to its involvement in the illegal Israeli occupation, the brand says it has “the responsibility” to ensure that its products are “manufactured in decent workplaces where human rights are respected”.

BDS says Puma’s exclusive licensee in Israel, Al Srad Ltd., has an outlet in the “no man’s land” surrounding  East Jerusalem, an area that is part of Israel’s illegal settlement-annexation enterprise.

In addition to land theft, Palestinian athletes face obstacles when participating in competitions in their own lands and abroad, while also struggling to find places to play due to the destruction that Israel regularly carries out in Palestinian lands.

There are over 150 Israeli settlements in Palestine, over 128 outposts, and over 750,000 settlers living in stolen houses.

Palestinians continue to face forced dispossessions in several areas, including most recently in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.


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