Palestine solidarity campaigners celebrated news that The Co-operative Group – commonly known as The Co-op – has decided to expand its boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land into a complete boycott of Israeli companies that source any goods in settlements.
In a 28 April statement, the Boycott Israel Network (BIN) said:
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.”
This means that as long as any supplier sources products from Israeli settlements, then none of the goods from that supplier, including those not sourced in settlements, will be purchased by the Co-op. According to The Guardian, the decision makes the Co-op, “the first major European supermarket group to end trade with companies that export produce from illegal Israeli settlements.”
The Co-op, which is owned by six million members, operates supermarkets, convenience stores and financial services, has 4,800 stores across the UK, employs more than 106,000 people and does annual business worth £13 billion ($21 billion).
Israel’s largest agricultural export company among firms to be boycotted
In its statement, Boycott Israel Network explained:
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 [euro]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.
Palestinians welcome news
The BIN statement quoted a spokesperson from the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees welcoming the news:
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.
The following is the text of the statement from The Co-operative Group, provided by the Boycott Israel Network in its release:
The Co-operative and the illegal Israeli settlements, 27th April 2012
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
*The four suppliers are Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin.