Interfaith group for Morally Responsible Investment with respect to Israel/Palestine

July 27, 2009
Richard Kuper

zaytounCall for support for Zaytoun oil:

We write as members of the Interfaith group for Morally Responsible Investment* with respect to Israel/Palestine, to ask that you give special thought to justice and peace  in Israel and Palestine when you consider your purchases both at Christmas and throughout the year.

On 28th May 2009 Nobel laureate and emeritus Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, stated in Hay-on-Wye that ‘the Israel-Palestine crisis is the most urgent problem for the world to solve. If it remains unresolved, no other issues from the war on terror to nuclear disarmament will ever be resolved’.  We wholeheartedly endorse this statement.

One way for the individual to address this major issue is through supporting the Palestinian economy.  To do so, advances justice to a people long deprived of that most basic of human requirements.  Therefore we are asking that in your consideration of ethical purchases this year, you consider Palestinian-made products from the Holy Land.  While this will not solve the conflict, it will send a strong signal to those in the occupied territories that people in the West remain steadfast in their commitment to justice and peace.

A product now available which contributes to economic justice to the Palestinian people is Zaytoun olive oil.  We urge you to consider purchasing this oil, which is 100% produced by an independent cooperative of Palestinian farmers in the occupied West Bank. With no funds for marketing, these farmers have worked over the last few years, against the odds, to build up a customer base in Britain. They have to confront major obstacles created by the Israeli occupation and closure policies. They have slowly been making inroads into UK health food shops, charity outlets and the occasional supermarket. They depend mainly on groups of committed human rights activists, of all faiths and of none, personally canvassing potential outlets and selling bottles of oil to individual supporters. The list of suppliers can be found on their website.

Many of those with an ethical bent will note that the Charities Advisory Trust, which is an important source of ethical gifts through their Good Gifts catalogue and their Card Aid outlets at Christmas time, promotes an olive oil they call ‘Peace Oil’.  This is an Israeli product which claims to help ‘peace and reconciliation in the Middle East’, an idea of particular resonance at Christmas. However it is our view that peace and reconciliation can only come about when Israel ends its occupation of Palestinian land and the economic strangulation of the Palestinian economy that accompanies it.

Peace oil is a commercial product, sourced from a Jewish owned farm employing Druze, Palestinian and Bedouin labour, and using the olive press of a Druze Sheikh. While the cooking oil blend contains 50% Palestinian content from the West Bank, which we welcome, the oil itself is hardly the collaboration of equals that its marketing implies.

Buying oil from Palestinian farmers via a cooperative such as Zaytoun, which actively promotes social justice and partnership in trade, is a positive act of support for people of the Holy Land who desperately need access to markets beyond their immediate locality. Its success in gaining Fairtrade certification – a first for a Palestinian product and a world first for olive oil – has created new opportunities for extending the British public’s knowledge of an important aspect of the life of Palestinian people. The Israeli farmer who produces Peace Oil has access to commercial Israeli marketing channels and does not need the help of a charity.

Zaytoun Oil fits perfectly into the profile of products sold by those championing Good Gifts, and it would help disadvantaged Palestinians directly, but CAT chooses not to promote it either instead of or, even, alongside Peace Oil. For this reason, we are now asking charities, faith groups and other organisations to offer Zaytoun Oil as their olive oil of choice, both at Christmas and year round.

For the Palestinian farmers, their oil is ‘not just for Christmas’, it is a matter of their very survival thoughout the year . We would be happy to arrange a meeting with you to discuss this matter in greater detail.

Yours sincerely

For further information

Aida Edemariam Is charity Peace Oil really the best way to help the Middle East? Guardian 20 December 2007

Mark Tran War of words over an oil named Peace, Guardian 7 December 2007

Hay Festival: Tutu calls for urgent solution to Israel-Palestine conflict 28 May 2009

* The Interfaith Group for Morally Responsible Investment (IMRI) is a campaign group working for peace with justice in Israel and Palestine and composed of Amos Trust, Interpal, Friends of Al Aqsa, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Pax Christi, Palestinian Return Centre, Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, War on Want, United Reform Church and individuals from different church denominations.
Contact: IMRI c/oAll Hallows on the Wall, 83 London Wall, London, EC2M 5NA

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