Shabbat Goy: The cottage cheese campaign

While I don't particularly care for the lumpy white stuff, 90,000 'Likes' on Facebook is impressive.

cottage cheese cartoon 521 (photo credit: Pepe Fainberg)
cottage cheese cartoon 521
(photo credit: Pepe Fainberg)
"How can you govern a country that has 246 varieties of cheese?" -- Charles de Gaulle
I’ll start off by confessing an indifference to the topic at hand. My problem is that I grew up eating processed cheese, which has the taste and consistency of vulcanized rubber. In short, I wouldn’t care if I never ate cheese again in this lifetime.
There’s also the issue of choice. I don’t like to be given too many choices. I invite anyone who subscribes to that old canard about choice being good to come shopping with me one day, to assist in the brow-furrowing activity of picking just the right type of cheese for the Goy household. Yellow, white, haloumi, Bulgarian, feta, 3%, 5%, cottage...
Ah, yes. Cottage cheese. That’s what I want to write about this week.
I don’t particularly care for cottage cheese. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that I scarcely care whether cottage cheese lives or dies (in a metaphorical sense, of course).
However, I’ve come to understand that the consumption of the lumpy white stuff is taken very seriously indeed in this part of the world. The scope and scale of options available underpins this fact.
Given the popularity of the product among consumers, one would be forgiven for assuming that it ought to be a buyers’ market, manufacturers and producers jousting to secure market share by offering the most competitive prices.
Not so.
As I write, a consumer boycott – prompted by the precipitous spike in the price of cottage cheese – is entering its third week. Said rebellion has been stoked by a Facebook campaign, with almost 90,000 participants heaping invective upon hapless manufacturers.
The growth of the revolt has been breathlessly reported in the press; questions have been asked in the Knesset. Last week, MK Ronit Tirosh presented Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu with a tub of cottage on the floor of the house; a gift, she said, since cottage cheese is now a “luxury item.”
(A digression: Tirosh, as they say, has form when it comes to the art of advocating boycotts. Over the last half-year, she has also called for a boycott of underwear [among other things] from the British shopping chain Marks and Spencer, and of the American Embassy 4th of July Independence Day Party.
I’m sure she’s an excellent parliamentarian in other respects, but I do worry about someone whose political philosophy seems based upon the act of saying “No!” If she’s not careful, she’ll soon become the gift that doesn’t stop giving to satirists.) Anyway... It is easy for me to be a bit sniffy about the cottage cheese debate. That said, there is an important point that shouldn’t be forgotten amid the handwringing and lamentations; for good or bad, Israel is supposed to operate an economy driven by market forces. The repeated increases in the price of cottage cheese highlight the curious monopoly that a small number of companies enjoy over the market in general, something the government seems ill-equipped (or ill-inclined) to address.
But I will be a bit sniffy.
Israel, it is fair to say, is a country beset by complex and complicated challenges on all sides. Social mobility, the education system, immigration, income distribution...
I won’t even say anything about the challenges that originate beyond the country’s borders.
OK, I will say one thing: I can’t help but worry when the prime minister says – as Bibi did last week – that there is no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This doesn’t exactly fill me with with hope about the future.
But in the meantime, we, the people, are complaining about the price of cottage cheese.
I mentioned this to a friend the other day.
“Ah, get off your high horse,” she replied. “It’s all on Facebook. All you need to do is to click the ‘Like’ link. It doesn’t take any real commitment.”
True. Take my Facebook page, for example: It’s all too easy to see my lack of commitment to anything and everything aside from books. Oh, yes, and to videos of adults doing stupid things – and being stupid enough to be caught on film while doing said stupid things. I’m not sure what this says about me, but it probably isn’t terribly flattering.
There’s been a big billboard campaign around lately bemoaning the state of the healthcare system in Israel. Y’know, a lack of anesthetists and family doctors and important stuff like that. I assume there’s a Facebook page in support of the initiative – after all, if a campaign is not up on Facebook, who will hear it make a sound? On a point of principle, I’m not going to look it up – among other things, it’ll be hypocritical of me to do so solely for the purpose of writing this column – but I’ll wager that it has nothing close to the 90,000 “Likes” of the cottage cheese campaign.
On the other hand, I have the c.c. campaign page open in front of me. And I see that someone has helpfully observed that “this is just the beginning.” After all, he continues, “its not just the doctors that are allowed to go on strike whenever they want !!!!!!!!!!!!!” (sic) Mmm, yeah. Silly doctors, going on strike because they are paid so little to perform a vital yet grievously under-funded public service. And silly for not sorting out their Facebook strategy.
I mean, surely 90,000 supporters will mean that the government might just pay a bit more attention to the state of healthcare in the country. Who knows, Ronit Tirosh might give Bibi a stethoscope next time, since good healthcare has become a luxury.
Or perhaps not. Going back to the French rulers, Marie Antoinette comes to mind. You know, she who (was supposed to have) said “Let them eat cake” when her subjects were rioting over the cost of bread.
I suppose the government could take a leaf out of her book.
Let the people eat “cottage.” That should keep us all happy.