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Too often the media focus on – or even actively promote – the pro-Palestinian narrative that demonizes Israel. They report on the highly mobilized, relentless efforts to isolate and economically weaken the state of Israel. Much less often, if ever, do the media highlight stories of successful Israeli resistance to that onslaught.
Shanie Bar-Oz is the dynamic owner of a Vancouver bath-and-body boutique called Lavan Canada that sells unique Dead Sea-based products with natural scents. Prominently displayed both outside and inside the store are signs reading “Products Made in Israel.” Very enthusiastic about those Israeli-made products, Shanie, 33, unexpectedly came under fire from aggressive protesters from the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions bullies. Check out this video which depicts protesters chanting and carrying signs with ludicrous claims such as “Lavan Soap Whitewashes Israeli Occupation.”
The repeated protests became not only obstructive to her business, but more frightening to Shanie and her employees as well. “I really feel all alone here,” said Shanie. “I’m a sitting duck and I don’t feel safe.” But when word got out about her being targeted, the supportive response was more overwhelming than the protests. Pro-Israel customers flocked to the store. Lavan Canada’s online orders increased as well. A Cambridge University student named Gili Brenner established a Facebook group called “We Are All Shani Bar Oz,” in support of the store owner:
I launched the group on Facebook because first we must show moral support and also buy the products. Yet beyond that, we need people in Israel to wake up and think about the steps needed in order to put an end to this madness.
Indeed, Israel’s supporters everywhere need to wake up and actively support businesses like Shanie’s. Her story is an instructive and inspirational one of ongoing, street-level resistance to the Israel-hating bullies – resistance from her, her customers and her supporters. They refused to be bullied and they banded together to help the store prosper, to stand in defense of Israelis and Israel, and to outnumber her enemies.
I talked to Shanie Bar-Oz about the empowering experience.
Mark Tapson: How exactly did this controversy begin? What happened outside your store, Lavan Canada?
Shanie Bar-Oz: About three or four days prior to the first picket, I received an email from The Jewish Federation warning me of an impending demonstration against my store. The first picket was quite small, totaling about ten or twelve protesters carrying white signs, Palestinian flags and inciting chants. Thankfully, due to the prior warning, many local Jews and Israelis came out to support me and my store. This was not the case for the next two protests, which they intentionally kept secret until they were outside the store.
MT: Who was behind the protests and why did they target your store?
SB: A local group that calls themselves the “Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign.” They have targeted Lavan as an Israeli brand (all of my products are manufactured in Israel). They claim in their brochure that by manufacturing Dead Sea Mineral products, we support the alleged “mistreatment and oppression” of the Palestinian people in the area.
MT: What were the protests like? Were you concerned about your safety and your shop?
SB: As each protest comes and goes, they get larger in size and more organized. The number of protesters, signs, and props increase. They have a ten-foot-tall effigy of [controversial Israeli Foreign Minister] Avigdor Lieberman, and images of Israelis as “apartheid vultures.” These vulture images, to me personally, are no different from the Nazis drawing Jews as pigs in the 1930’s.
They also brought a six-foot-tall wall that they use to block my display and divert pedestrians on the sidewalk away from my store. They also distribute vicious and slanderous pamphlets to the pedestrians and Lavan’s customers containing false claims about Lavan, as well as an edited version of our logo from “Body, Mind, and Soap” to “Bomb, Mine and Sell.”
Safety is always a concern during any protest. My employees are upset and scared, which is understandable considering there are people outside protesting our homeland’s existence. One protester said “Heil Hitler!” to one of Lavan’s supporters during the first protest. As a new immigrant to Canada and a business owner, I try to keep a lid on the tense emotions involved. Thankfully the police and a few of my best friends showed up when they were called, to discourage violence.
MT: How did the word start to get out that you were under assault? What was the response, when people learned you were being harassed?
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