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Posts

Co-op Group to buy no goods from firms sourcing from Israeli settlements

Co-op boycotts exports from Israel’s West Bank settlements

UK’s largest mutual takes lead among European supermarkets

By Tracy McVeigh and Harriet Sherwood,The Observer, (print)
28.04.12 (online) 29.04.12 (print)

The Co-operative Group has become the first major European supermarket group to end trade with companies that export produce from illegal Israeli settlements.

The UK’s fifth biggest food retailer and its largest mutual business, the Co-op took the step as an extension of its existing policy which had been not to source produce from illegal settlements that have been built onPalestinian territories in the West bank.

Now the retail and insurance giant has taken it one step further by “no longer engaging with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements”.

The decision will hit four companies and contracts worth some £350,000. But the Co-op stresses this is not an Israeli boycott and that its contracts will go to other companies inside Israel that can guarantee they don’t export from illegal settlements.

Welcoming the move, Palestinian human rights campaigners said it was the first time a supermarket anywhere in the west had taken such a position.

The Co-op’s decision will immediately affect four suppliers, Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin, Israel’s largest agricultural export company. Other companies may be affected by the policy.

Hilary Smith, Co-op member and Boycott Israel Network (BIN) agricultural trade campaign co-ordinator, said the Co-op “has taken the lead internationally in this historic decision to hold corporations to account for complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights We strongly urge other retailers to take similar action.”

A spokesperson for the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which works to improve the conditions of Palestinian agricultural communities, said: “Israeli agricultural export companies like Mehadrin profit from and are directly involved in the ongoing colonisation of occupied Palestinian land and theft of our water. Trade with such companies constitutes a major form of support for Israel’s apartheid regime over the Palestinian people, so we warmly welcome this principled decision by the Co-operative. The movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law is proving to be a truly effective form of action in support of Palestinian rights.”

Boycott campaigns against Israel are routinely denounced by Israeli officials as part of a drive to “delegitimise” the Jewish state. A law, passed last July, allows those that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel, its institutions or areas under its control to be sued.


Campaigners welcome Co-operative Group move to end trade links with companies that source goods from illegal settlements

Media Release, Boycott Israel Network (BIN)
28.04.12

Palestine human rights campaigners today welcomed news that the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, The Co-operative Group, will “no longer engage with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements”.

The Co-op’s decision, notified to campaigners in a statement, will immediately impact four suppliers, Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin, Israel’s largest agricultural export company. Mehadrin sources produce from illegal settlements, including Beqa’ot in the Occupied Jordan Valley. During interviews with researchers, Palestinian workers in the settlement said they earn as little as €11 per day. Grapes and dates packaged in the settlement were all labelled ‘Produce of Israel’.

Mehadrin’s role in providing water to settlement farms and its relationship with Israeli state water company Mekorot makes the company additionally complicit with Israel’s discriminatory water policies. Other companies may be affected by the Co-op’s new policy if they are shown to be sourcing produce from Israel’s settlements in the Occupied Territories.

Hilary Smith, Co-op member and Boycott Israel Network (BIN) agricultural trade campaign co-ordinator, said “we welcome this important decision by the Co-op to take steps toward fully realising their policy of support for human rights and ethical trading. The Co-op has taken the lead internationally in this historic decision to hold corporations to account for complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. We strongly urge other retailers to follow suit and take similar action”.

The announcement by the Co-op came just before their Regional AGMs, due to take place over the next two weeks, and where motions on this issue have been submitted for discussion. For months Co-op members have been highlighting their concerns about trade with complicit companies through co-ordinated letter-writing and discussions with local offices.

A spokesperson from the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which works to improve the conditions of Palestinian agricultural communities, said:

“Israeli agricultural export companies like Mehadrin profit from and are directly involved in the ongoing colonisation of occupied Palestinian land and theft of our water. Trade with such companies constitutes a major form of support for Israel’s apartheid regime over the Palestinian people, so we warmly welcome this principled decision by the Co-Operative. Other European supermarkets must now take similar steps to end their complicity with Israeli violations of international law. The movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law is proving to be a truly effective form of action in support of Palestinian rights”.

Campaigners say that this widening of the Co-op’s human rights and trade policy represents a victory for the BDS campaign, called for in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations. Actions across Europe to highlight the issue of complicit agricultural trade companies have included co-ordinated popular boycotts, pickets of supermarkets, lobbying and blockades of company premises.

Last year Agrexco, formerly Israel’s largest agricultural goods exporter, was ordered into liquidation after posting record losses and failing to pay its creditors. Shir Hever, Israeli economist and commentator who researches the economic aspects of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, said that one factor was “the fact that Agrexco has been the target of an international boycott campaign, in protest at its role in repressing Palestinians”.

All other major supermarkets in the UK continue to trade with the companies that are now barred under the Co-op’s human rights and trade policy.


Major British supermarket chain announces boycott of produce made in West Bank settlements

Co-op, fifth biggest supermarket chain in Britain, emphasizes it will continue doing business with companies that can guarantee none of their products come from outside the Green Line.

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz
29.04.12

One of the largest supermarket chains in Britain has announced that it intends to boycott Israeli agricultural exporters that market also produce from the West Bank settlements.

While British food retailers have for some years now been labeling products that are grown or manufactured in settlements and in some cases boycotting them entirely, this is the first move by a major company to end all dealings with companies that export products from within the Green Line and from the settlements. The main companies that will be impacted by this decision are Agrexco, Mehadrin and Arava.

The announcement came this weekend following years of campaigning by pro-Palestinian organizations in Britain that have been lobbying for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel. Co-op, the fifth biggest supermarket chain in Britain has emphasized that this is not a boycott of Israel and that it will continue doing business with companies that can guarantee none of their products originate from outside the Green Line.

The attempts to limit the export of settlement produce to Europe were led in the past by the European Union and the British government. In 2009, the British government, at the express instructions of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, issued guidelines to retailers on clear labeling of produce made in settlements, differentiating it from Palestinian produce and products that were made within the Green Line. These guidelines followed Israeli refusals to label settlement products before being exported to the EU. The issue of labeling settlement produce was a major bone of contention between the British and Israeli governments at the time.

In recent years, the BDS movement has targeted companies such as Agrexco, an export cooperative that serves thousands of farmers, kibbutzim and small agricultural companies in Israel that has continued to export settlement produce.

Hilary Smith, of the Boycott Israel Network welcomed the the Co-op’s decision saying that the chain “has taken the lead internationally in this historic decision to hold corporations to account for complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. We strongly urge other retailers to follow suit and take similar action.”

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem responded saying that “it is a pity to see some, who ostensibly pretend to contribute to peace and reconciliation, advance a negative agenda of boycotts, inject an atmosphere of confrontation and widen the distance between the parties involved. It would be prudent to seek a more positive approach to conflict resolution.”


The Co-operative and the illegal Israeli settlements, 27th April 2012

Statement (as published by electronic intifada)
29.04.12

Since 2009, The Co-operative Group has operated a Human Rights and Trade Policy, which establishes the exceptional circumstances under which we will withdraw all trade from a particular state, area or settlement.

One such circumstance is where there is a broad international consensus that the status of a settlement is illegal.

There are only two examples of such settlements: the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and the Moroccan settlements in Western Sahara.

On this basis, our policy has previously been not to source any produce or own-brand product from the Israeli settlements (or from Moroccan settlements). Since its adoption, this position has been underpinned by a rigorous monitoring process.

On the 25th April, The Co-operative’s Board determined that, going forward, we will additionally no longer engage with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements. This decision will impact four suppliers*, and circa £350,000 of trade.

In reaching this decision the Board was mindful of the additional costs involved in the tracing and auditing of all produce supplied by these businesses.

In line with the Board’s decision, we have audited our supply chain and identified a small number of businesses that we can no longer source from, as there is evidence that they source from the settlements.

This position is not a boycott of Israeli businesses, and we continue to have supply agreements with some twenty Israeli suppliers that do not source from the settlements, a number of which may benefit from a transfer of trade.

We will also continue to actively work to increase trade links with Palestinian businesses in the Occupied Territories.
27th April 2012


Boycott the Cooperative Group!
Matzav blog
29.04.12

If you live in England and support Israel, you should boycott the Cooperative Group. The Cooperative Group, England’s largest co-op, has decided to boycott four major Israeli produce suppliers because of their ties to Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria.

The Co-operative Group has become the first major European supermarket group to end trade with companies that export produce from illegal Israeli settlements.

The UK’s fifth biggest food retailer and its largest mutual business, the Co-op took the step as an extension of its existing policy which had been not to source produce from illegal settlements that have been built on Palestinian territories in the West bank.

Now the retail and insurance giant has taken it one step further by “no longer engaging with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements”.

The decision will hit four companies and contracts worth some £350,000. But the Co-op stresses this is not an Israeli boycott and that its contracts will go to other companies inside Israel that can guarantee they don’t export from illegal settlements.

The Co-op’s decision will immediately affect four suppliers, Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin, Israel’s largest agricultural export company. Other companies may be affected by the policy.
JPost adds:
The food retailer clarified that the “position is not a boycott of Israeli businesses, and we continue to have supply agreements with some [20] Israeli suppliers that do not source from the settlements.”It added that it will “continue to actively work to increase trade links with Palestinian businesses.”

I have no idea how much of the produce exported by the four companies in question comes from Judea and Samaria, but I suspect it’s far less than half (and that the companies will not release information like that). In essence, this is a boycott of Israel and not just of Judea and Samaria.

I also have no idea how muh the Cooperative purchases from the other suppliers, but I would bet that it’s far less than it purchases from the four big ones.

Finally, the large Israeli exporters also market ‘Palestinian’ products. In other words, the ‘Palestinians’ are losing out.

UPDATE 5:06 PM

Received from a British correspondent:
Actually, it’s a chain frequented by vegans and hippies which has cultivated an image of ‘ethical’ consumerism in order to appeal to a very specific market. The management couldn’t care less, but they’ll do whatever curries favour with their target consumers, be that banning plastic bags or boycotting Israeli goods.

This is the result of a long campaign which began around 2007. PSC members deliberately joined the Co-op and brought with them fellow travellers who are not necessarily identifiable PSC/BIG people, but friends/family on the same wavelength. Within a fairly short period of time – around 12-18 months – they had managed to dominate local Co-op members groups which, in all fairness, wasn’t difficult because the vast majority of Co-op members don’t bother going to meetings and/or are sympathetic to ‘progressive’ causes.

Local branches then send reps to area meetings and from there to national meetings and hence a small number of committed people willing to put in the time managed to dictate the Co-op’s agenda through perfectly democratic and legitimate means.
Not only does the Co-op’s organisational structure lend itself very well to this type of action, but the Co-op management will run with anything it perceives as attractive to the ‘ethical’ consumer because – unable to compete with giants such as Asda and Tesco on price – it has tried to attract customers through the use of the green/fairtrade/ethical agenda.

This is a prime example of the success of the type of ‘creeping’ anti-Israel propaganda which is spread at under the radar local levels in the UK. A steady stream of anti-Israel letters to the local newspaper, a few local vicars on board, a PSC demo every few weeks, an annual benefit ‘Gig for Gaza’ at the local working men’s club – and hey presto: the result is an entire town which knows very little of the ins and outs of the Arab-Israeli conflict, but is absolutely sure who is right and who is wrong.

It can technically be turned around, but that requires people from our side to join the Co-op and put in the same kind of effort in attending meetings etc.

The Co-op also has a funeral business, an insurance company and a bank which provides services to ‘Viva Palestina’.
Hmmm. Given today’s UK, I wonder whether there’s any hope of ‘our side’ getting enough people to join to turn it around.
Labels: BDS, British anti-Semitism


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The Co-operative Group
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Email: customer.relations@co-op.co.uk, or Phone: 0800 068 6727

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