Major UK food retailer boycotts 4 Israeli companies

Co-operative Group halts £350,000 worth of trade with produce suppliers over their ties to West Bank settlements.

Produce lettuce crops farming 370 (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Produce lettuce crops farming 370
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Britain's fifth-largest food retailer, the Co-operative Group, announced over the weekend that it would stop doing business with four Israeli companies accounting for £ 350,000 worth of trade over the companies ties to and operations in the West Bank.
The four companies the the Co-op is severing ties with are Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin, according to a statement. Going forward, the statement added, "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 settlements."I t added that it  will "continue to actively work to increase trade links with Palestinian businesses."
A spokesperson for the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees called on other European supermarkets to take similar steps.
In 2010, responding to a Norweigan petition to boycott Israel, Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon described those calling for a boycott against 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 table."
In the United States last month, members of the Park Slope Food Co-Op voted down a proposed referendum to ban Israeli foods by a landslide.
Late last year, the Trade Union Congress, Britain’s labor federation, voted to reaffirm its commitment to the boycott of Israel and to “review” its relationship with the Histadrut at its annual conference in London.
The motion called for encouraging 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 Wall.”
Last July, the Knesset passed the "Boycott law," which empowers 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 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.
Gil Shefler, Joanna Paraszczuk and Jonny Paul contributed to this report.