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,