Kiddush clubs declare boycott on Scottish whiskey

Move by Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs comes after Kiddush-favorite Chivas named in global boycott of Israeli goods.

chivas regal 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
chivas regal 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs (FJMC) – a partnership of 250 Jewish men’s clubs that claims more than 25,000 members throughout North America – has joined with synagogues both in Israel and in the diaspora in “suggesting a boycott of scotch from distillers located in West Dunbartonshire Council in Scotland at Kiddush and [in] public and private” celebrations.
The FJMC, which is affiliated with the Conservative movement, has called for Jews to avoid certain brands of spirits following a boycott of Israeli goods instituted by the local council of the whiskey-producing region.
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“A boycott is like a snowball heading downhill,” said FJMC Executive Director Rabbi Charles Simon.
“It begins at the top of a large mountain, and gathers momentum until it is transformed into an avalanche.
If we wish to stop it, we need to act as soon as possible.”
Among the distilleries named in the boycott are Morrison Bowmore, Loch Lamond and Chivas Brothers.
Chivas Brothers produces the well-regarded Chivas, Glenlivet and Ballantine’s brands which are the preferred spirits in many so-called “Kiddush clubs,” which gather following services in some synagogues.
The decision by Rabbi Simon to urge FJMC members to engage in a counter-boycott came after well known Israeli-Anglo blogger and pro-settlement activist, Jameel Rashid, publicized on his website a letter to several distilleries located within West Dunbartonshire. Rashid wrote: “the global counterboycott of Scottish whiskey products, distilled in the West Durbanshire council region, is beginning.”
Anglo-Israelis, an important target market for purveyors of liquor here, have been circulating e-mails calling on both Israeli and American Jews to cease consumption of Scotch whiskey, and urging supporters of Israel to send copies of Rashid’s missive to the distilleries in question.
When “your local council representatives boycott my country – under the most unethical and immoral of pretext – you cannot expect your market to sit idly and pretend you are not perverting justice,” wrote Rashid.
Both Rashid, the pseudonym for an anonymous Israeli who writes the popular Muqata blog, and the author of the widely read website Israellycool, have posted the home phone numbers of local council members, urging participants in the counter-boycott to call them to express their discontent.
Explaining his rationale for the initiative, Rashid stated that “its best to contact the whisky distillers directly, since the West Dunbartonshire Council of Wise Men couldn’t care less what a pro-Israel, proliberty, person might think... but they might listen to voices of their constituents – specifically the Scotch whisky distilleries in their council’s region.”
The boycott against Israel was initially introduced by the West Dunbartonshire Council in response to what councilmen described as “the disproportionate use of force used against Palestinians” during the IDF’s Gaza incursion in 2009.
The council resolved that it “recognizes the disproportionate force used by the IDF in Palestine and agrees to boycott all Israeli goods as a consequence. Officers should immediately cease the purchase of any goods we currently source, which were made or grown in Israel. Officers should also ensure we procure no new goods or produce from Israel until this boycott is formally lifted by WDC.”
Replying to the council’s assertions, Rashid excoriated the local representatives for whitewashing Hamas’ “barbarism” – citing the use of hospitals, schools and Mosques as cover by Gaza terrorists.
“Why was there an IDF operation in Gaza in the first place? To oppress poor Palestinian Arabs? How would you deal with Gazas’ Arabs targeting Scotland’s babies, other children, and other civilians. Have you not seen the pictures of atrocities the Arabs have visited on innocent children, or does your council not care?” Rashid, in an e-mail to The Jerusalem Post, stated that people have joined his counter-boycott from “all over” Israel and the US.
“The International Kiddush Club of America is giving us top billing as well,” he added.
The West Dunbartonshire Council, while it has not responded publically to calls endorsing a boycott of locally manufactured spirits, has defended the decision which sparked the protest.
The Council explained that it does “not in any way seek to censor or silence authors and commentators from Israel.” “The Council’s boycott only relates to goods ‘made or grown’ in Israel. The vast majority of mainstream books by Israeli authors are published in the UK, and are therefore not affected by this boycott. Only books that were printed in Israel and transported to the UK for distribution would be potentially boycotted.”
Members of the council did not reply to requests for comment about the whiskey boycott made by the Post.
Kirsteen Beeston, a spokeswoman for Morrison Bowmore Distillers, told the Post that “Neither Morrison Bowmore Distillery nor Auchentoshan take any political stance, and this policy has been made independently from us, and without our consultation.”
Kirsteen highlighted Auchentoshan’s efforts to reach out to the Jewish community and its connections to the London Rabbinical court. She stated that she is forwarding all e-mails received to the council to “ensure it is made fully aware of the potential implications of its policy.”
Gary Sakol, the deputy director of the Zionist Federation of the UK, commented that “Whilst not from West Dunbartonshire, this makes me ashamed to call myself Scottish, and I truly hope those involved will reverse their action.”