They dressed up as Jewish rabbis and carried signs that read: “Thank you for supporting the Israeli Defense Army”, “Your money financed the Trump Peace Plan”. The young men stood at the southern suburb in Beirut at the Roweis- Martyrs Compound intersection.
The little commotion in the streets turned out to be young men expressing their opposition to Trump’s ‘deal of the century’, and their support to the campaign launched by Hassan Nasrallah, the general secretary of Hezbollah, to boycott American products. The rabbis also turned out to be fake, only after they were attacked by the locals. The whole story went viral on social media, after the video of the performance was circulated, which concluded with the slogan: “Boycott American Products”.
But advocating the campaign and realistically practicing it did not begin with those young people’s objections, but rather it started with a Facebook group called “I have an alternative”. This group advertised Iranian products, as an alternative for American products. It was one among a series of campaigns launched to support “noble” Iranian goods, and to boycott “imperialist” American goods.
The irony here is that the extensive efforts exerted for marketing these Iranian products could only be fantasized about by Lebanese manufacturers and farmers, who did not receive any similar supportive campaigns.
Where are the Lebanese?
“In the ‘I have an alternative’ group, they are marketing Iranian goods, instead of Lebanese goods… now we need another campaign to tell us about the alternatives for Iranian goods,” Nour Zein El-Din tells Daraj, after she was added to the group which had been created after Nasrallah’s call in his last speech to boycott American products.
There are alternatives for food products, cleaning products, shampoo, cigarettes, coffee, chocolate, … all available on the group. These young Hezbollah supporters and enthusiasts who whole-heartedly believe in the party’s approach, are offering Iranian and Syrian alternatives for American products present on the Lebanese market.
“The boycotting campaign had only one outcome these couple of days, which is that it promoted varieties of Iranian products and where to find them… which means in the end the external market is the one that is benefitting, not the Lebanese market,” explains Nour.
The group did not escape sarcastic commentary. One person suggested using ‘miswak’ (a retro-type of toothpick) instead of American-made toothpaste, and replacing shampoo with laurel soap, as well as replacing Nescafe with simply washing your face well, upon waking up. Others took the campaign more seriously, considering that most of the goods they were being asked to boycott are not goods they would usually buy in the first place, not because they were made in an American industry but rather because they were too expensive anyway.
So there are those who are looking for alternatives to American products through promoting Iranian products, meanwhile Lebanese manufacturers and farmers are facing a major crises in marketing their products.
This scene has raised a lot of questions concerning the budget and funding of “Hezbollah” itself, including its supporters, fighters and institutions, and the salaries paid to the thousands of its men, in US dollars, and the American M16, a weapon they used during the war, in addition to the four-wheel drive vehicles that lead the military parades they’ve organized, and which their leaders also take on field trips. Their American branded clothes are also not hidden, ironically enough showing up during the campaign in a photo the was published exposing Nasrallah’s son, Jawad Najel Nasrallah, wearing a Timberland T-shirt (a famous American brand) with the word USA plastered on it.
Nasrallah’s son’s photo provoked many reactions on social media, some people advising Nasrallah to buy his son Iranian clothes before launching a campaign boycotting American goods to his audience.
Iranian goods invade the Lebanese market
Iranian food supplies had previously entered the Lebanese markets; an Iranian-made automobile company, “Saipa”, opened a branch in Lebanon, in addition to Iranian smart phones and raw materials, like iron and other products, it’s even gone as far as the basic materials that any Lebanese home requires. All you have to do is to enter any store in the Southern suburbs of Beirut, and you can find Iranian products on every shelf in the supermarkets. They even opened stores that are specialized in Iranian products, and this is what the “I Have an Alternative” group is mainly promoting.
Those in charge of ‘I Have An Alternative” believe that if the group is capable of changing the consumption habits of one person, this could be considered an achievement, adding “Let’s start here, we all have alternatives”, on their page.
So, there are those who are looking for alternatives to American products through promoting Iranian products, meanwhile Lebanese manufacturers and farmers are facing a major crises in marketing their products, so much so that many of them closed their businesses and abandoned their lands after drowning in debts and successive marketing crises.
Iraq Boycotts Iranian Products
The Iraqis have lived through this experience and called for the boycotting of any product that reads “Made in Iran”, after the Iraqi market was flooded with Iranian products, due to their low prices. This was preceded by campaigns that also called for the boycott of American products, which did not succeed as hoped, but did contribute to the encouragement to buy and support local goods. Perhaps that is what the declining Lebanese economy needs, while a large portion of its citizens are too busy comparing American and Iranian products.