NEW YORK — Cosmetics firm Garnier created a big social media stink last week after donating care packages to female Israel Defense Forces soldiers fighting in Operation Protective Edge.
With “take care” as its motto, Garnier’s gifts included soap and deodorant and were distributed by Israel advocacy nonprofit StandWithUs.
Now the L’Oreal-owned hair and skin care beauty company is coming under attack by Israel critics and the Garnier Facebook page is littered with heated comments by supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, even on posts unrelated to this controversy.
The donation was facilitated by the nonprofit, StandWithUs, which promotes Israel on social media and around the world. During Operation Protective Edge the organization has raised awareness of the background to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict in international media. Domestically it has, among other initiatives, brought care packages to members of the IDF such as these Garnier toiletries, solar cell phone chargers, food, and other donations.
In a July 31 Facebook post, StandWithUs published an item describing the personal care products donation, illustrated by photographs of smiling recipients. The post went viral and has been shared some 22,000 times. There are over 3,000 comments to the post, some in support, though most against the Garnier gift.
The photo post was accompanied by this message: “We are honored to be delivering these ‘girly’ care packages for our lovely female IDF fighters! Today’s delivery of care packages was stocked with thousands of products for our girls protecting Israel. They even received facial soaps and minerals, so they can still take care of themselves, even while defending the country.”
The care packages, donated by Garnier Israel, were accompanied by letters “of support and love” by South African children.
Many critical Facebook comments against the donation ran along the lines of, “All the beauty products in the world are not enough to make those monsters look like human beings.”
‘All the beauty products in the world are not enough to make those monsters look like human beings’
According to Michael Dickson, Director of the StandWithUs Israel Office, the mean-spirited and anti-Semitic comments are mainly coming from “internet trolls” in Malaysia and Indonesia.
“This all demonstrates that the online reality for Israel is similar to its geographical reality – Israel is outnumbered,” Dickson wrote in an email. “However, social media is also a great leveler — we have managed to reach a huge number of people, and there have been many brave people voicing support for Israel from the Arab world too, and even from the Palestinian Authority. We received photos of support for Israel’s actions against Hamas from citizens in Pakistan, Iran and the PA.”
There is now a call to boycott Garnier on the Palestine Solidarity Campaign website. Migdal Haemek, founded in 1952 in the site of a former Christian Arab village, is the location of the Israeli factory owned by L’Oreal. It is is described on the PSC website as having been “ethnically cleansed” in 1952.
In addition to encouraging supporters to boycott Garnier, PSC is also promoting a social media hashtag, #BoycottGarnier, through which they would like members to express their outrage. Some have also begun using a #BoycottLOreal hashtag as well.
People have used the hashtag to post their distaste for the company through messages and photos. In one horrific meme the photo of the five smiling young female soldiers holding their new bottles of soap was transformed into a macabre image in which the women cheerfully hold missiles and dead children.
Supporters of Israel were quick to support Garnier for its donation. They wrote messages of thanks and encouragement to the company on its Facebook page as well as on their own Facebook timelines.
On Thursday afternoon, however, Garnier USA published a post on Twitter in which they acknowledged the pro-Palestinian backlash and in an attempt to distance itself from the melee, claimed ignorance of the donation.
“Garnier USA is aware of recent activity in social media. It is very important to us that our fans know that Garnier worldwide promotes peace and harmony and has a strict policy of not getting involved in any conflict or political matter. Garnier was astonished to discover this in social media. After investigation, the hand-out of about 500 products appeared to be part of a one-time local retailer initiative. Garnier disapproves of this initiative managed strictly at local level and is very sorry to have offended some of its fans.”
Subsequently, some upset Israel supporters have vowed to stop buying Garnier products.