Netherlands: Companies deny giving in to boycott

Dutch companies published ads in Jordanian newspaper against Fitna and in support of the "The Prophet Unites Us" campaign, hoping to avoid a boycott (English). As expected, this was actually the initiative of local Jordanian businessmenm. However, unlike Danish company Arla, those Dutch companies stand behind their importers, thereby enabling the Jordanian boycott committee to announce victory (Arabic).


"We absolutely didn't give in to a boycott threat," says Zwanenberg spokesperson. "But you can't do business if you don't respect the other's religious convictions."

The sausage maker placed an advertisement in a Jordanian paper, which distanced itself from Fitna, Geert Wilders' movie. Zwanenberg also supports the campaign of the "The Messenger of Allah Unites Us", an action committee from Jordan which strives to forbid insulting religions in international law. By that the company prevented itself from being placed on a new poster of the committee that calls to boycott Dutch and Danish products. Chairman Zakaria Sheikh says that he had printed a million of these posters.

According to Zwanenberg the initiative for the advertisement came from a local middleman. "De facto, we export to his business. We don't speak with Mr. Sheikh, and therefore we had yielded nothing."

The company says it has started an investigation about the action committee. "We are not interested in being associated with a fundamentalist organization. But saw no harm in placing an advertisement. Everybody has freedom of expression. Why then shouldn't we distance ourselves from this movie?"

Dairy factory Friesland Foods had put out a similar advertisement in Jordanian papers. But according to a spokesperson, it was done by a local distributor on his own volition. "It wasn't directed from the head office. That ad wasn't necessary as far as we're concerned."

Friesland Foods, however, says it supports the published text. It came from a statement made on March 28th in which the company condemned Fitna since Wilders "equates Islam to violence". The spokesperson: "We're also not crazy. We knew that there will be questions coming in Muslim countries, let me be clear aobut it. That is how we thinks about it. Nothing more, nothing less." Thes statement was necessary for internal use, says Friesland Foods, since the company does a lot of business with Muslim countries. "We're a concept there".

Other companies, such as Philips and KLM, will appear in the boycott poster. They distance themselves from the contents of Fitna, but did not put out an advertisement.

A KLM spokesperson: "At this moment we don't see the necessity of it, but we aren't principally against it. We'll wait and see." Electronics manufacturer Philips is more positive: We aren't publishing an advertisement, simply because it's not up to us to take a position on political questions."

Dutch companies export to Jordan about 179 million euro per year, mostly dairy products and machinery. That is about 0.6% of the total export, according to Dutch Statistics. Exports to the Middle East are about 5 billion euro, which is less than 2% of the total exports. Despite the ongoing boycott efforts, Dutch businesses are barely affected.

Sources: Volkskrant, AD (Dutch)

See also: Denmark: Arla threatens Jordanian importers

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