This is a quick note to say I’m very excited to now be blogging for Israel’s premier online news website – The Times of Israel.
Check out my first post here…
Note: The majority of future Israel-related posts will appear on The Times site and NOT here.
This could turn into an ongoing saga, but after I finally got a reply from the Co-Op over a month after writing this blog, tweeting and emailing them. I got this reply. My notes are in [red]
Dear Mr Hailes Thank you for your tweet.
Please see below our policy [the following is obviously copied and pasted as appears in a different font and begins...]
Thank you for contacting the Co-operative Careline. [I didn't. I tweeted, I blogged and I emailed. But I never phoned them]
We welcome the opportunity to clarify our position on the issue of the illegal Israeli settlements.
Our Human Rights and Trade Policy, adopted in 2009, established 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 been not to source any produce or own-brand product from these settlements.
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 illegal 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.
We would like to state categorically that our position does not constitute a boycott of Israeli businesses. [But it is a boycott of Israeli businesses working in the West Bank] Indeed, we remain firmly committed to sourcing produce from Israel, and we continue to have valued arrangements with some twenty Israeli businesses (worth around £1.75 million per annum). Our need to source high-quality seasonal produce, including peppers, tomatoes and herbs, means that it will predominantly be our Israeli growers and suppliers who benefit from the transfer of trade from those delisted. As such, this decision is not expected to lead to a significant overall reduction in our trade with Israeli businesses.
In addition to our firm commitment to Israeli produce, we continue to seek increased trade links with Palestinian businesses. For example, we were the first major UK retailer to stock Fairtrade Palestinian olive oil. [They won't sell olive oil produced by Israeli and Palestinians owned by an Israeli company, but they will sell olive oil produced by Palestinians owned by a Palestinian company.]
I hope that this information clarifies our position and if I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me or on our Freephone 0800-0686-727.
Customer Relations Officer
Here’s my reply:
Thank you for your response. I was surprised I had to wait so many weeks for a reply but understand you have been inundated with upset customers such as myself on this issue. I hope the number of complaints you’ve had on this issue will make the Co-Op think about its policy.
Sadly, the copying and pasting of your policy is not useful in this case. Let me just take the time to highlight the legal status of that part of the world:
In 1920 at the San Remo conference, all 51 countries in the League of Nations voted in favour of giving what was then called Palestine to the Jews. This included what we now call the “West Bank”. After WW2, the United Nations replaced the League of Nations and inherited all of its rulings, including this one.
In 1947, the Arabs were offered a state in all of the West Bank, Gaza and some of the north of Israel. They rejected this, and so it remained Israel’s. The following year, 5 Arab armies attacked Israel. Jordan illegally annexed the West Bank in 1950.
In 1967, Arab armies again seeked to completely destroy the Jewish nation and failed. But importantly, the Israelis won back territory they had previously lost – including the West Bank. Because they were fighting a defensive war, and because the land was theirs legally, they have every right to live in and build on that land. Therefore it is not correct to refer to settlements in the West Bank as “illegal”.
The question for you is will you base your policy on the facts, or on other people’s opinions? I’m willing to admit there are plenty of people and nations that believe settlements are illegal. But if you want to adopt their view, you must now explain why the above history I’ve explained to you is incorrect.
I look forward to hearing your response.
Thanks very much,
The following letter took me about 5 minutes to write. I’m copying it here because I believe it’s an important issue. I will let you know if I receive a response!
Dear Co Op,
I am writing to express my disappointment at your decision to boycott products from Israel and Israeli companies.
The Israeli – Palestinian conflict is far from simple and there are many wrongdoings and injustices on both sides. By boycotting one side and not the other you are making a political statement and also giving weight to an extremist position and argument.
Should we not be supporting the people on both sides? Governments and powers may be wrong and unjust, but surely you don’t want either the Palestinian or Israeli people to suffer?
I’d like to draw your attention to an often overlooked fact: By boycotting Israel you are harming the Palestinian people.
Did you know that a large number of Palestinians make their living from the companies and geographical regions you are boycotting? I would urge you to overturn your decision and instead buy from both Palestinians and Israelis. Demonising one side by refusing to buy from them solves nothing.
I take no pleasure in complaining and I’m a regular customer of your stores.
I feel boycotting your store is as meaningless as your boycott of Israel. Just because your board or members may not agree with the Israeli government, that gives you no right to harm the Israeli and the Palestinian people by cutting off their work.
And just because I disagree with your boycott of Israel, I’m not going to harm your individual workers by not buying from your shops and in turn effecting your profits and their wage packet!
I look forward to reading your response.
Thanks very much,
Commas save lives.
“Let’s eat, Mum” or “Let’s eat Mum” have two very different meanings.
Language is also important. When language is misused, misinformation can spread quickly.
As most of you will know, when we say ’1st century’ we are talking about years between 0 and 100CE.
The word Palestine traces back to the word Philistine – the ancient enemy of the Israelites.
The territory today defined as Israel/Palestine was never called Palestine until 135CE. 35 years after the ’1st century’.
Before that, it was called Israel by the Jews, and Judea and Galilee by the ruling power – the Romans. We have the Bibilical record for that.
From my research, it’s fair to say the entire New Testament was completed by 70CE as that is when the temple was destroyed and not a single New Testament (NT) writer mentions that catastrophic event. So it makes sense to assume the event hadn’t happened yet, and that’s why they weren’t writing about it. Although this is an argument from silence, it would have be the equivalent of the media not mentioning 9/11 in the year following 2001.
But even if you don’t find that argument convincing, the majority of scholars will tell you the NT was completed by 100CE at the latest. Nowhere in the NT do any of the writers reference “Palestine”. They only ever mention the land of Israel. So if the people living there at the time said they lived in Israel, why in our academic literature, do we say they lived in Palestine?
I am not making a political point here, I’m explaining that Palestine simply didn’t exist until the Romans renamed Israel as Syria Palaestina in 135CE. So by all means talk about 2nd century Palestine all you want. But 1st century Palestine never existed.
I hope this explanation has been clear. I find it hard to believe that so many academics have got something so important, totally wrong. And like everything I write – I’m open to correction should it come in the comments below.
NB. For those of you with Bibles, flick to the back where you’ll most likely have some maps. Many of them title the maps ‘Palestine in the time of Jesus’, or equivalent. Now, I know Jesus ascended to heaven and is still alive today, but he was not walking the earth in 135CE, and his book had also been finished by then! Jesus died and ascended around 33-35CE. So ‘Palestine in the time of Jesus’ is 100% untrue. It was Israel in the time of Jesus.
Liam Fox abused his freedom and position as Defence Minister by taking his friend Adam Werrity with him on government business.
The media had a field day and the public were “outraged”…or so we were told by the sensationalist press.
What Fox did was wrong. No one disputes that. But while it’s easy to point the finger at others, we must admit that we’re all guilty of abusing our freedom.
Pope John Paul II once said: “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”
We’re free to speak our minds, but don’t speak up when it matters. We’re free to practice our faith, but don’t put it into action.
Yet there is hope. When we understand what freedom truly is, incredible things can happen…
After 5 years in captivity Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was finally released by Gazan terrorists on the 18th of October.
Gilad will never take his freedom for granted. And neither should we. Our freedom and free will is God-given and should be used wisely.
I have been following Gilad’s plight since the beginning and counted it an honour to meet his father, Noam just four weeks before Gilad was released. When I met Noam in Israel, he was putting his freedom to good use. Him and his wife had set up a tent outside the Prime Minister’s house, and were refusing to move until their son was bought home.
The Shalits used their freedom to campaign for their son’s freedom. And now Gilad is finally free. He is enjoying the simple things in life. Being with his family, catching up with friends and enjoying sunlight for the first time in months.
Will we choose to abuse our freedom like Fox did, or will choose put our freedom to good use like Gilad’s parents?
Thousands of people across the globe joined with Gilad’s parents in campaigning for the young soldier’s release. Others stood by the sidelines and let cynicism rule their hearts. “You’re wasting your time, it will never make any difference”, they said.
Freedom is an immensely powerful tool. Those that campaigned for Gilad’s release proved it. Every day we are free to make our own choices. Each of us is free. The question is: “How will we use that freedom?”
*this piece originally appeared in the Nov/Dec edition of Heart Of Sussex Newspaper.*
On the 19th September, I met Noam Shalit, the father of the kidnapped soldier named Gilad Shalit. For someone who had been following Gilad’s plight since the beginning, it was a significant time. You can read all about it here.
Now on my 22nd birthday, the 25 year old is finally released and the world’s media is once again turning its attention to Israel. I am overjoyed for Gilad, for his family and for the whole of Israel. Everyone in Israel has known the name “Gilad Shalit” for 5 years and his family have become unfortunate celebrities.
Even when I met Noam just four weeks ago, I could tell he appreciated everyones messages of support, but ultimately just wanted his son back. The family recognised the necessity of sharing their story with the world through television cameras, but that doesn’t mean they enjoyed the attention. My suspicion is deep down they’ve hated it. But the possibility of getting their son back meant they would do anything to reach the final goal – even camp outside the Prime Minsiter’s house!
As you sit down and watch the 6 o clock news this evening (while I’m out enjoying my birthday), pay close attention to how this event is reported. The facts are 1027 Palestinian prisoners are being freed. 315 of these are serving life sentences. These are people who think nothing of killing innocent Israelis through terrorist attacks. What are the Palestinians doing? Celebrating. Watch the pictures tonight – they are on the streets cheering and welcoming home convicted terrorists who have been let off.
How does the media report this? Well at lunchtime the BBC was comparing the suffering of Gilad Shalit’s family with the families of the terrorists being let off. Is this really a fair comparison to make? The media are making this out to be a fair swap. The reality is this was a massive and painful price for Israel to pay. They are releasing prisoners who will most likely turn around and start murdering innocent civilians all over again. So don’t be fooled. There is a massive difference between Gilad Shalit and the 1000 prisoners. By the way, ITV news couldn’t even pronounce Shalit’s name correctly at lunchtime. That’s how bad UK reporting on Israel can be!
But today is a happy occasion. Gilad is alive and back with his family. It’s the best birthday present anyone who follows the situation in the Middle East could hope for. Welcome home, Gilad.
While in Israel I met a young man named Liran. I shared some of his story with you in this post. Liran has very kindly sent me a poem he wrote (originally in Hebrew, but now translated). I believe the poem was featured in a national newspaper in Israel, and rightly so. It gives you a little insight into how young Israelis feel. I post this on the day of the Jewish New Year and as the UN deliberates over whether to create a Palestinian state.
I am the generation by Liran Shamriz