In March 2010 H&M opened its first store in Israel shortly after the Goldstone findings of Israeli war crimes in Gaza. The negotiations between H&M Sweden and Match Retail in Israel were announced 9 December 2008 and upgraded on 22 July 2009. The Israeli war on Gaza took place between 27 December 2008 -18 January 2009; while the European Union decided to halt the of the association treaty in light of the Israeli war against Gaza, H&M de facto awarded Israel for it.
The newly elected CEO of H&M, Karl-Johan Persson, even honoured the opening of the first store on 11 March 2010 with his presence. He cut the ribbon and gave the inspiring words: “It”s been a fantastic reception so far in Israel; it feels great to finally be here with our first store. We are convinced that our business concept will suit the Israeli customer very well…”. At the store opening in Jerusalem, the ribbon was cut by the major, Nir Barkat, who”s policies openly include ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem.
In complete disregard of Israel’s crimes against humanitarian law and in utter greediness, H&M decided to establish a chain of stores in Israel, thereby sending a signal to the Israeli government and public that its crimes are perfectly fine and even encouraged.
H&M has opened three stores in Israel so far, and another five are expected during 2010 and 2011 (no dates of further openings are available). Each store opening has been met by world-wide protests.
The campaign will continue to inform H&M, their customers and the public of the inappropriateness of establishing in Israel while Israel is continuing to expand settlements, conduct arbitrary executions, expropriate Palestinian land, ethnically cleanse Jerusalem and ignore the international community”s demands for a just peace.
Since our last communiqué the campaign has found creative new ways and more supporters have joined. Barcelona joined the campaign and staged an impressive protest at H&M. Inspired by Paris, Brussels took over an H&M store. In Berkeley, street adverts announced the H&M military collection 2010. In Sweden in several cities H&M stores have been targeted; in Gothenburg the protests were energized by anti-BDS protestors who also attracted police to the scene; in Malmí¶ security personnel forcefully removed protestors from an H&M store. One unique campaign initiated by the second-hand clothes store chain Emmaus Bjí¶rkí¥ in Sweden generated a 5000 EUR donation to Ship to Gaza. In Lebanon streets and walls have been graffitied, encouraging people to boycott H&M. And much more.
There is a run among international corporations to establish in Israel and H&M is only one of them. The aggressive campaign by the Israeli foreign trade ministry, the Re-Brand Israel campaign and the US and EU countries” campaigning for increased trade exchange with Israel in the framework of a policy of “trade for peace”, have created a fertile environment for corporate establishments. The BDS movement is unable to focus on all the companies that have relations in Israel; therefore we must work to set examples in order to break the trend. We believe that H&M is a perfect company to target:
1. It has a massive Corporate Social Responsibility policy
2. It is a first-hand consumer goods company which means we are not facing a unreachable company that few customers deal with or even know about
3. H&M are very sensitive to their image and how customers perceive them
4. It is a business under heavy competition
5. H&M is present around the world which makes this a perfect campaign for the BDS movement
6. H&M is also located in the Middle East which also adds the potential of protests from the Arab world
7. H&M made the mistake of establishing in Israel just after the war on Gaza and completely ignored the turn in trends for Israel
8. H&M may speak warmly on human rights in their CSR documents but are infamous for violating the rights of their workers. This gives additional legitimacy to targeting the company.
Let us continue this campaign until H&M have no choice but to stop their establishment in Israel. And if H&M management stubbornly holds on to their Israel investment, then they should suffer a heavy price for it in terms of global image deterioration and loss of customers and share holders. We will keep you updated of any developments regarding the remaining five stores. In the meantime:
· Sign our protest lists
· Sell any shares that you may have in H&M and tell the company why
· Write a letter to H&M
· Join the H&M Facebook fan group and spread the H&M BDS message there
· Cancel your H&M membership card and tell H&M why
· Encourage even more organisations to become campaign endorsers
· Continue to protest outside your local H&M stores as often as you can and let’s be inspired by each other.