Le Marcheur owner refuses to take Israeli shoes off the shelves
Published Friday, January 28, 2011 8:42PM EST
All Yves Archambault really wanted to do was provide what he felt was a quality product for his clients at Le Marcheur, a St-Denis St. store specializing in walking shoes.
But Archambault's decision to carry the Beautifeel ladies footwear line has turned his little store into a lightning rod for protesters, just because the shoes are made in Israel.
A group called Palestinian Jews United (PAJU) has been staging weekly protests in front of Archambault's store for months because they object to what they consider to be colonialist practices by Israel in Palestine.
The shoes have become a symbol for their objections to Israel's policies, even though another store in the area sells nothing but Israeli shoes yet draws no similar protests.
Meanwhile, Archambault says business is starting to suffer as a result, and he's wondering when it will all end.
But he won't take those shoes off his shelves.
"We're completely apolitical," Archambault says. "But it's a question of principle."
Be that as it may, that apolitical principle has sparked reaction from the political arena.
Quebec Solidaire MNA Amir Khadir has endorsed the boycott of the store, and in reaction people like Mont-Royal MP Irwin Cotler have gone out of their way to shop at Archambault's store to show their support.
"This is standing-up to freedom, to democracy and really it's a stand of principle," Cotler said. "I respect that."
This week, PAJU decided to put its weekly Saturday demonstration on hold because an ultra-nationalist and anti-Semitic group called the Mouvement Nationaliste Revolutionaire Quebecois decided to join the protest.
It may have simply been a one-week reprieve, or perhaps the protests will fizzle out altogether.
But Archambault has another worry.
"We're losing a lot of our regular customers," he says.
It's an unfortunate byproduct of an ideological battle a simple merchant never wanted any part of.