Facebook protest forces Israeli cheese price cuts
JERUSALEM (AP) -- A high-profile Facebook protest has scored a victory for consumers in Israel: Their threats of a boycott have forced dairy manufacturers to lower the price of cottage cheese by some 25 percent.
The two-week campaign drew more than 105,000 people to join a Facebook group vowing to boycott the Israeli staple until prices dropped. The campaign has touched a nerve among Israelis concerned about rising prices and eroding salaries.
Spooked by the outrage, the three large Israeli dairy companies that control the market agreed Wednesday to lower the price of a half-pound (250 gram) container to 5.90 shekels ($1.75) after it had risen to close to 8 shekels ($2.30).
Thursday's newspapers carried glowing headlines that declared: "We Won," and "Cottage Cheese Victory."
"Contrary to his media image, the Israeli consumer is no sucker. The absolute opposite is true," said Sever Plocker, economic columnist for the mass Israeli daily, Yediot Ahronot. "When a product looks too expensive to him, he doesn't buy it, but rather its substitute. The Israeli does not replace the product, he replaces the vendor."
The "cottage protest," as it has come to be known in Israel, has sparked hope it will spread to other fields: the price of gasoline, which is now over $8 a gallon ($2 a liter), and other food products have recently skyrocketed as well.
It also has highlighted the power of social media outlets in sparking change, with some comparing it to the revolutions taking place elsewhere in the Middle East.
"True, this is not Tahrir Square yet, the cottage cheese rebellion did not require us to take any real action, just to press 'like' and skip the cottage cheese shelf in the supermarket," columnist Ben Caspit wrote in the Maariv daily, referring to the square that was the epicenter of the Egyptian uprising. "This was inaction, not action, and it demanded no real sacrifice."
The Facebook page of the cottage cheese boycott identifies organizers as regular Israelis who "work for a living, are raising families and bowing under of the weight of the cost of living in Israel."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.