Scottish pro-Palestinian group 'fabricates' story of Israeli boycott

ByJONNY PAUL, JPOST CORRESPONDENT IN LONDON
December 13, 2008 21:48

Scottish local council emphatically denies allegations that it was pressured to boycott Israeli water company.




Scottish pro-Palestinian group 'fabricates' story of Israeli boycott

(photo credit:)

A local council in Scotland has emphatically denied the allegation made by a pro-Palestinian fringe group that it had been pressured by the group to boycott and terminate a contract with an Israeli mineral water supplier. West Lothian Council called the claim made by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC), that they were responsible in part for the termination of contracts for water coolers with Eden Springs, "a total fabrication." Earlier this month, the SPSC announced that Eden Springs had closed its East Scotland depot in Loanhead, near Edinburgh, after a number of Scottish companies had cancelled contracts with the Israeli company because of "violations of international and human rights law." They said the closure of the depot and loss of contracts was "widely recognized within the industry to be due in part to a determined publicity campaign by the SPSC." In a statement, the fringe group said: "In an industry that is generally expanding, Eden has lost contracts with East Lothian and West Lothian Councils and Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries." SPSC accuses Eden Springs of violating the Hague Convention "by making commercial use of water from a natural source in the Golan Heights, which is occupied territory," even though the water used by Eden's Scottish depot comes from local sources. However a spokesman for West Lothian Council told The Jerusalem Post: "This is a total fabrication. We did move from Eden Springs to AG Barr, but only because our contract with Eden Springs had expired on August 31. The original contract was three years and we even extended the contract for a further year. Barr's contract is a Scotland Excel [procurement organization for local authorities] collaborative contract." Others have also denied the claim: East Lothian Council told the Post that they never had a contract with Eden Springs and while the company had supplied water coolers at one time, the decision to use a different supplier was based on practical factors. "Although Eden Springs did supply East Lothian Council with water coolers, we didn't have a contract with them," the spokesperson said. "The council is a member of Scotland Excel, a procurement organization for Scottish local authorities. While reviewing our services we used Scotland Excel to consider the supply of our water coolers and now have a contract with a new supplier." A spokesman for Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries told the Post they were "puzzled" by the claim. "We are puzzled at the claim that we terminated our contract with Eden as a result of pressure from activists, as it was as a result of the company itself informing us that they could no longer provide water to our locations on the northwest coast of Scotland that led us to seek an alternative supplier." The SPSC also said that Heriot-Watt University and Stevenson College, both in Edinburgh, and the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organizations (SCVO) had also voted to boycott Eden. A spokeswoman for Heriot-Watt University said: "Heriot-Watt did terminate a contract with Eden Springs, one of a group of suppliers providing bottled water for use in water coolers, in March 2008. This decision was made purely on the grounds of service issues relating to Eden, and was not in any way affected by political issues or calls to boycott the company." An SCVO spokesperson told the Post they changed suppliers a year ago and that cost had been the main reason behind for the change. "I am informed that cost was the main reason why we changed suppliers, as there were cheaper alternatives available," a SCVO spokesperson said. A spokesman for Stevenson College said the claim was "incorrect," and that the college "is continuing to use Eden Springs as our water supplier." A number of articles followed the story attributing success to the actions of the SPSC. In an article last week, Haaretz said the shutdown was reportedly due to an "extended boycott campaign by pro-Palestinian organizations in Scotland." Another article said: "As a result of an intensive boycott campaign, Israeli water cooler company Eden has been forced to close its East of Scotland depot." Last week, an article in a Scottish student newspaper said: "Pro-Palestinian activists are claiming victory after water-cooler company Eden Springs shut down its East of Scotland branch. Groups such as the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign say that their efforts to boycott the company have cost the company vital contracts." In a statement, Eden Springs said: "The company has not closed any offices or warehouses in Scotland, on the contrary, we are actually considering expanding the company in England and Scotland. "Eden is dealing with extremist activity through informative campaigns. We are not interested in politics, only with providing the best quality water for our customers."

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