Didi Remez reports an exchange between a customer and Portland-based Columbia Sportswear, whose Israeli distributor had been running ads in Hebrew and English advertising their clothing as "suitable for active work in various regions, including outposts." Customer Peter Miller wrote to the company explaining that in Israel, "outposts" refers to the most extreme of the settlements which are considered illegal even by the Israeli government. The next day, Columbia Sportswear responded with an email promising to "permanently discontinue" the ad and explaining that the Israeli distributor created the Hebrew text and incorrectly translated it and ran it without clearance from the home office. The Portland office apologized for "the offense inadvertently created by the error." The exceptionally quick and positive response by Columbia Sportswear suggests that firms whose marketing relies on a progressive, green image are open to reasonable arguments favoring Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions against the occupation. For added interest, Gert Boyle, the Founder of Columbia Sportswear, is a Holocaust Survivor and is alive and well! – Joel Beinin
Columbia Sportswear Halts Marketing to Settlers
On Nov. 30th, we published a post noting that Columbia Sportswear, a Portland-based manufacturer of fairly high-end outerwear, was running ads in The Jerusalem Post and Makor Rishon touting the value of their jackets "for active work in various regions, including outposts." The post was picked up and republished the same day by Adam Horowitz of Mondoweiss.
This morning (December 4 2009,) Ron Parham of Columbia Sportswear left this message, promising to discontinue the ads
Thank you and your readers for bringing this advertisement to our attention and for voicing your concerns to us via this site and numerous e-mails.
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 take all customer feedback seriously and sincerely regret the offense inadvertently created by this ad.
Sr. Director Investor Relations and Corporate Communications
Columbia Sportswear Company
I checked and the ads in both this morning's Jerusalem Post and Makor Rishon no longer mention the outposts (I'll put the scans up on Sunday.)
Big deal? I'm not sure. Helena Cobban thinks it is Some people might consider this to be a trivial issue. But the "normalization" of the whole idea of Israeli settlements and settlement-building– let alone the whole idea of the "outposts" that even the Israeli government considers to be illegal– is by no means trivial to the Palestinians, or to the causes of justice or peacemaking. I think the bottom line is that when you see a grave wrong being committed in the world, speak your conscience. Your voice– my voice– any of our voices–can indeed make a difference. You never know what a difference your voice, or my voice, can make. What you do know, is that if you remain silent, then your silence may well be understood as complicity in the wrong that's being committed.
UPDATE: Adam Horowitz at Mondoweiss has more details on the grassroots pressure Columbia Sportswear encountered over the past few days.
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