I was fortunate to be at New Seasons in Concordia yesterday and photograph the amazing performance by the flash mob, about 24 members of Portland BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) Coalition. What was normally another typical Sunday afternoon shopping at New Seasons turned into a living theatre for a few moments, with an urgent message to persuade New Seasons to stop carrying 19 Israeli products. As stunned shoppers watched, the performers sang and danced their hearts out to the tune of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face." Many shoppers seemed impressed and took photos with their cell phones. I was glad that the performers were able to finish their song inside the store, and communicate their compelling message so dramatically:
All these products support Israeli Apartheid
At the expense of Palestinian Human Rights
New Seasons, you say you support community
But you sell products that destroy them overseas
No, no, no, no, no, don't buy into it, no
Israeli brands, made on stolen land
New Seasons, New Seasons,
You say you're local but you buy into
Support the boycott!
We want this store to take responsibility
and boycott Israel 'til Palestine is free
B-Be outraged because the US gives away
seven million dollars to Israel everyday!
The activists also waved signs saying "Anti-Occupation is not Anti-Semitic," "Israeli Policies = 1.7 million Palestinian refugees." They gave out leaflets to shoppers, explaining why New Seasons was targeted. The BDS members had submitted a petition to New Seasons with over 500 signatures from their shoppers supporting the boycott, and tried unsuccessfully many times to meet with New Seasons management. Also at issue was New Seasons' recent censorship of a photo exhibit by Stephen Kerpen, a Jewish photographer, at the Southeast Store. He was forced to remove his photographs of Palestinians and Bedouins when one customer complained.
When the song was over, the activists left the store in high spirits, and repeated their performance outside on the sidewalk across from the entrance. New Seasons had apparently called the police—one of them showed up and after a brief exchange, he left, having determined that the activists were not a threat to anyone. The activists even gave him a leaflet explaining the illegal Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinians.
I thought this was an excellent action, well-planned and performed. We need more direct actions like this, using theatre, music and dance in a creative and innovative way, to get across this urgent demand to end the brutal Israeli occupation of Palestine that has gone on for over 60 years.
For more information, go to http://pdxbds.wordpress.com