Chana Veffer (left) and Nili Abrahams in the orchards of Degania..
(photo credit: GALILEE GREEN)
A small olive-oil business based in northern Israel has become one of the latest targets of anti-Israel activists and has spent the past week battling efforts to discredit its produce.
The campaign against the Yavne’el-based Galilee Green began on November 2, the centenary of the Balfour Declaration that paved the way for the establishment of the State of Israel.
The timing of the launch of the campaign by supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement was no coincidence – several online posts mentioned the milestone as a launchpad for their efforts to demonize the business.
Dozens of Facebook users have bombarded the Galilee Green Facebook page urging people not to buy their products, based on their claims that the products come from “stolen land” and “stolen olives” as well as far more virulent accusations.
“Ironically, we work with Kibbutz Deganya Alef,” Galilee Green president and CEO Rabbi Shmuel Veffer told The Jerusalem Post
on Thursday. “The land the trees are on was purchased from the Ottoman Turks before WWI and the Balfour Declaration. Our offices are in Yavne’el on land purchased by Baron Rothschild from the Turks and Yavne’el was founded in 1901. The land here and at Deganya was rocky and barren of trees.”
Veffer and his wife, Chana, founded the company together with Nili and Arnie Abrahams, all of whom are immigrants from Toronto, Canada.
The first bombardment of messages, many in the form of one-star reviews, succeeded in bringing Galilee Green’s 5-star rating down to 3-stars.
But loyal customers promptly fought back with posting glowing 5-star reviews on the page, bringing the rating back up to 4-stars as of Thursday afternoon.
Galilee Green and its supporters have been reporting certain posts to Facebook, based on the social media giant’s rules against harassment, hate speech and threats. Facebook has removed some of the posts and responded to Galilee Green with a form letter outlining procedures of blocking people from the page and adjusting privacy settings. But the amount Facebook has removed is only a small portion of those posted, and thus the most effective countermeasure has been the groundswell of positive reviews issued in response to the BDS campaign.
“My grandfather’s flower shop in Holland had a Jewish star and Jude painted on his window in an attempt by the antisemites to shut down his business,” Veffer remarked. “In the end, they survived by hiding for three years. After the Nazis were defeated, they came out of hiding with their six children and reopened the flower shop. Now it’s my turn to have the haters trying to destroy my business, simply because I’m Jewish.”
Veffer said he has received support from across the globe, including from Rena Nickerson, general manager of SodaStream Canada – a company that was famously targeted by BDS over its principal manufacturing facility, which used to be located in Mishor Adumim in the West Bank.
“This olive oil company, Galilee Green, exemplifies grace under pressure,” Nickerson wrote in a Facebook post. “Please help them in their fight against antisemitism as they are experiencing a new wave of attacks now. You can help by reporting reviews you find to be hateful and untruthful to FB.”