1) Number one will come as no great surprise to anyone who keeps up with the news. Thanks to Reuters (who said investigative journalism was dead?) it has emerged that Starbucks UK paid no corporation tax for three years. Critics urge a boycott, defenders point out Starbucks haven’t broken the law. The debate about tax evasion vs tax avoidance continues…
2) From finance to politics (dull, isn’t it?). A lobbying group known as “Dump Starbucks” are also calling for a boycott. Why? At the beginning of the year executive vice president Kalen Holmes released a statement titled “Starbucks Supports Same Sex Marriage“. Interestingly, Ben & Jerrys have come out (for want of a better phrase) with the same opinion. One group has managed to collect a whopping…285 signatures against them. *Snigger*
3) Zionism! Yes, that’s right; my love of Starbucks and Israel have collided. While the idea that Starbucks itself somehow supports Israel is false, the CEO Howard Schultz was honoured in 1998 with “The Israel 50th Anniversary Friend of Zion Tribute Award” for his services in “playing a key role in promoting close alliance between the United States and Israel.”
4) Firearms. And you thought the last point was a bit wacky. But yes, just as I’m beginning to scrape the barrel for ideas, my American friend informs me that the company support concealed carrying of firearms in US stores! Despite having the right as a retailer to ban customers from entering stores with weapons, Starbucks have declined, and therefore allowed themselves to be labelled pro-guns.
5) The taste. If you’ve successfully navigated yourself through the ethics and politics of tax avoidance, gay marriage, Zionism and guns then it’s time to grab a latte and sample the guilt-free taste. But alas! Coffee snobs complain the coffee is burnt and bitter. They claim Starbucks roasts their beans at a higher temperature in order to produce large quantities of beans in a short time. The high amount of sugar and syrups apparently make it more like “candy than coffee“. Have you fallen at the last hurdle?
If you’re in the fortunate place of agreeing or disagreeing with all five of these points then you have a water-tight argument either way. Some will say that because the company are screwing the government over, support same sex marriage, are gun friendly, love Israel and make excellent coffee then we should all buy more of their coffee.
The opposite could also be true. You could disagree with Starbucks’ take on thorny issues and dislike the taste.
But the vast majority will find themselves in a position where they neither agree or disagree with all of the policies. What then?
Well ladies and gentlemen, may I make a profound point here. May I suggest that when it comes to Starbucks, there’s only one point that has ever mattered. The taste.
I know, it’s a startling idea to consider: We should either enjoy or boycott a coffee company based on what their coffee tastes like! How profound.
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.
The year started with New Zealand’s South Island being struck by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. Less than three weeks later, Japan suffered a quake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale – the worst to hit the region since records began. A massive tsunami followed, killing 16,000 people.
Looking west, the developed world witnessed huge disasters as a series of tornadoes ripped through the heart of America in May and Hurricane Irene struck the Caribbean in August.
Monsoons battered much of Asia throughout the year and heavy flooding left more than a million people homeless.
But it’s not just the weather that has been dramatic.
“Money Makes The World Go Round”
If such a statement is true, then we can expect to witness the earth being thrown off its axis and plummet into deep space during 2012. The financial crisis is more or less, a global one.
Sadly the Western world – especially America – doesn’t seem to understand the simple principle that you can’t borrow money forever.
If I lent you a million dollars every day for 2000 years, you still wouldn’t be anywhere near the amount of debt the US government is in. The National debt has increased by $3.94 billion per day since 2007.
Natural disasters and unnatural debt. But to top it all off, as 2011 draws to a close, the very people responsible for disseminating these important news stories are corrupt!
The Hacks Have Been Hacking!
As if to prove to the public that they will sensationalize anything they can get their hands on, the UK press has spent the last 6 months sensationalising the very story they are caught up in. Millie Dowler, Ian Blair, Steve Coogan. The question is not “who’s phone has been hacked?” but “who’s phone hasn’t been hacked?”
So if that great staple of British democracy (newspapers) is under threat and Levison is serious about the government regulating the press, where can we look for inspiration in these dark times?
Arab Spring- Unprecedented Phenomena
When a 23 year old fruit seller by the name of Mohammed Bouazizi had his business shut down by a corrupt Tunisian police force, everything changed.
Inspired by Buddhist monks, Bouazizi set himself on fire. This is surely the most tragic form of protest imaginable, yet it turned out to be the most effective.
Within months, all of Tunisia was in an uproar. The Tunisian’s righteous indignation at an oppressive regime was adopted by their Arab neighbours in Egypt, Libya and now Syria.
The West loves democracy, and Obama and Cameron have been acting like excited kids at Christmas as the news of toppling dictatorships reaches our shores. They loved it so much, they joined in the fun and started taking out dictators, who only a few months ago we were more or less friends with.
Many European politicians worship democracy, and are pleased it is coming to the Middle East. But as the great Winston Churchill once said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.”
The situation in Iran is hotting up. The country has been hanging homosexuals and threatening to nuke our only true and dependent ally in the Middle East (Israel) for years – but we didn’t care. Oh no, it wasn’t until the Iranians attacked the British embassy in Tehran that we all started paying attention.
To summarise, there have been wars, rumours of wars, earthquakes, nations rising against nations, an increase in lawlessness (look at the London riots if you don’t believe me) and an all round lack of love and respect.
No wonder Harold Camping decided to pronounce, “the end is nigh”.
Here’s The Hope
Right now you’re wondering where the hope is, right?
I dare you to spend a few moments thinking about what Christmas means, because ultimately the true message is one of hope.
Jesus was born during similar times to our own. Both then and now, the world had gone totally mad! 2000 years ago, the King was issuing orders to kill all the baby boys in town. Oppression was everywhere. Yet some ordinary and mainly working class Jews discovered the greatest man who had ever lived and had their loves totally transformed for the better. They dedicated the rest of their lives to spreading this “good news” about Jesus.
Now one quarter of the world worships the Jewish messiah. Perhaps it’s fair to say us Christians are able to celebrate Christmas better than any other group of people. Maybe we understand the meaning better than anyone else. But we won’t like to think like that, because the point of the Christian faith is this news about Jesus isn’t just for a select few people…it’s for everyone. And that’s why we’re happy to let the whole earth join in and celebrate Christ-mas with us.
This isn’t dull, meaningless theology. Jesus offers hope now. His message of hope wasn’t just offered to some shepherds and wise men in a stable. The message was never only for a chosen select few. His message is eternal and inclusive. As relevant today as it was then. Hope has come.
While we eagerly await a coming time where there will be no more floods, tsunamis, famines, earthquakes, financial crisis, corrupt politicians and journalists…Oh yes, such a time is coming. But the hope of the Christian message doesn’t start when we die or when the world ends. It’s already here.
What is this message of hope? Click the above picture for more info, or click here for some music. Both should help answer that question.