Britain’s fifth-largest food retailer, the Co-operative Group, will stop doing
business with four Israeli companies, accounting for £350,000 worth of annual
trade, over the companies’ ties to the West Bank.
The four companies the
Co-op is severing ties with are Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and
Following the announcement, pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon
noted that Agrexco, as well as exporting Israeli and settlement produce, also
exports Palestinian produce from Gaza marketed under the company’s Coral
The boycott seems likely to affect Palestinian farmers who use
Agrexco to export their produce to Europe.
In response to a Jerusalem
Post query, the Co-operative Group refused to comment on the harmful affect its
boycott of Agrexco might have on Palestinian farmers in the Gaza Strip, saying
only that “the Group will also continue to actively work to increase trade links
with Palestinian businesses in the Occupied Territories.”
information from the IDF, more than 800 tons of strawberries were exported from
the Gaza Strip through Israel in 2010 and 2011, and more than 13.8 million
flowers were exported during the same period.
So far in 2012, more than
50 truckloads of flowers, tomatoes, dates, bell peppers and strawberries have
been exported by Palestinian farmers through the border crossings with
Going forward, the Co-op said over the weekend, “we will
additionally no longer engage with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing
from the Israeli settlements.”
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
A representative of the Palestinian Union of Agricultural
Work Committees called on other European supermarkets to take similar
Jon Benjamin, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of
British Jews, called the Co-op’s boycott “naive and a retrograde
“This extension is significantly less than the full boycott of
Israel sought by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
However, the Co-Op
has not fully understood the Jewish community’s serious concerns with an
everincreasing slippery-slope boycott policy.”
Despite the Co-op’s claim
that it is applying its policy even-handedly, it still sells products from
“Occupied Northern Cyrus” labeled as produce of Turkey, Benjamin
“The Co-Op claims that it may buy more produce from other Israeli
companies in place of these four. This remains to be seen, and we will monitor
the outcome closer,” he said.
A spokesman from the British Israel
Coalition Public Affairs Committee (BICPAC), a recently established London-based
Israel advocacy organization, also castigated the Cooperative’s
“It seems the Co-Op has been hijacked by members who joined
simply to vote in this sort of discriminatory policy. It has made clear where
its loyalties lie, and has decided to take the side of those who wish to
delegitimize Israel and attempt to damage her thriving economy,” BICPAC
The organization called on friends of Israel to respond accordingly
until the Co-op changes its stance.
“We call on friends of Israel from
all communities to respond by making clear where their loyalties lie, and choose
to shop elsewhere until this ugly and policy is canceled. There are many shops
in the UK which stock hundreds of Israeli goods. It is the duty of those who
support a just and peaceful settlement between Israelis and Palestinians to
continue buying those goods in shops which do not deliberately target Jews and
Israelis with boycotts,” the BICPAC spokesman said.
In 2010, responding
to a Norwegian petition to boycott Israel, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon
described those calling for a boycott of the Jewish state as effectively
“boycotting the peace process by automatically and unequivocally endorsing the
Palestinian position and pushing them further away from the negotiating
In the United States last month, members of the Park Slope Food
Co-Op in Brooklyn voted down a proposal to ban Israeli foods by a
Late last year, the Trade Union Congress, Britain’s labor
federation, voted to reaffirm its commitment to the boycott of Israel and to
“review” at its annual conference in London its relationship with the Histadrut
The motion called to encourage affiliates, employers
and pension funds “to disinvest from, and boycott the goods of, companies who
profit from illegal settlements, the occupation and the construction of the
Last July, the Knesset approved the “Boycott Law,” which
authorizes Israelis who are the targets of public boycotts – due to being in or
connected with Israel, Israeli institutions or “areas under Israeli control” –
to seek compensation for damages in court. The law also permits the finance
minister to withhold benefits from bodies calling for boycotts and to prohibit
their participation in state tenders.
The law defines a boycott as a call
to refrain from cultural, economic or academic connections with an Israeli
citizen, institution or company.
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Gil Shefler and Joanna Paraszczuk
contributed to this report.