The latest outrage from the anti-Israel (and mostly antisemitic) BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement comes from the British Co-op supermarket stores. (h/t Times of Israel who provided a link to the BDS-ers website, which I will not do here so as not to give them the traffic they desire).
Luckily (or perhaps not) and unsurprisingly, I found the story also on the Guardian whose headline reads “Co-op boycotts exports from Israel’s West Bank settlements”, with the sub-heading “UK’s largest mutual takes lead among European supermarkets” – as if the boycott is a good thing that should be emulated by European shops.
However the story itself is rather less benign (as if a boycott of Israeli goods, even from settlements, could be benign) than the headline would lead us to believe. (Emphases are mine).
The Co-operative Group has become the first major European supermarket group to end trade with companies that export produce from illegal Israeli settlements.
The UK’s fifth biggest food retailer and its largest mutual business, the Co-op took the step as an extension of its existing policy which had been not to source produce from illegal settlements that have been built on Palestinian territories in the West bank.
Now the retail and insurance giant has taken it one step further by “no longer engaging with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements”.
The decision will hit four companies and contracts worth some £350,000. But the Co-op stresses this is not an Israeli boycott and that its contracts will go to other companies inside Israel that can guarantee they don’t export from illegal settlements.
What we see here is first of all a smug, self-righteous boycott of Israeli settlement goods. This has unfortunately become so routine that most of us, at least in Israel, are completely unaware of this anti-Israel activity.
Before I go any further into the boycott issue, I just want to comment on this throwaway paragraph inserted without further comment or any reaction from the Israeli side:
A spokesperson for the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which works to improve the conditions of Palestinian agricultural communities, said: “Israeli agricultural export companies like Mehadrin profit from and are directly involved in the ongoing colonisation of occupied Palestinian land and theft of our water. Trade with such companies constitutes a major form of support for Israel’s apartheid regime over the Palestinian people, so we warmly welcome this principled decision by the Co-operative. The movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law is proving to be a truly effective form of action in support of Palestinian rights.”
The “ongoing colonisation of occupied Palestinian land” must be the most useless and pathetic colonisation in history, since Israel has not built any new settlements since the 1990s. As for Apartheid, we’ve been over all that before many times on this blog. Elder of Ziyon also has an excellent series of posters demonstrating how false this analogy is.
Regarding the “theft of water”, this is another tool in the anti-Israel arsenal of the BDS brigade, and it it an outright falsehood. In this Water Report 2012 article, written by the Israeli advocacy group Cohav, you can see that the exact opposite is the case. Here is their summary:
a) Jordan has more fresh water available per capita than Israel (172 cubic metres per capita per year against 153 for Israel), yet we give 40 millcubic metres a year to Jordan under the terms of the “peace” treaty
b) Jordan loses 40% of its fresh water to evaporation, bad infrastructure, leakage etc compared to Israel 10%
c) Israel recycles 80% of its waste water as of 2010, the Palestinians 0%
d) Palestinians consume 95 cubic metres per capita per year against 129 cubic meters fresh water availability of which Israel supplies 29 cubic metres
e) Israel is supplying the Palestinians more than double the amount agreed in the 1995 agreement. Agreed 23.6 million cubic metres, including 5 for Gaza, actually supplying 52.
f) Palestinians are losing 33% of water supplied due to evaporation, leakage and a large part due to theft.
g) Over 300 illegal wells have been drilled in Judea and Samaria which ultimately can destroy the aquifer and cause an ecological disaster for the Palestinians.
h) In spite of help offered, the Palestinians do not recycle waste water or have any plans for desalination
Returning to the Co-op’s boycott, now that the supermarket has gone one step further and has instituted what amounts to a secondary boycott of companies that do business with those boycotted settlements, besides the immorality and unethical behaviour of this action, it would seem that the supermarket has stepped onto shaky legal ground.
According to the legal definitions section of the Free Dictionary, the definition of a secondary boycott is:
A group’s refusal to work for, purchase from, or handle the products of a business with which the group has no dispute.
A secondary boycott is an attempt to influence the actions of one business by exerting pressure on another business. For example, assume that a group has a complaint against the Acme Company. Assume further that the Widget Company is the major supplier to the Acme Company. If the complaining group informs the Widget Company that it will persuade the public to stop doing business with the company unless it stops doing business with Acme Company, such a boycott of the Widget Company would be a secondary boycott. The intended effect of such a boycott would be to influence the actions of Acme Company by organizing against its major supplier.
Generally a secondary boycott is considered an Unfair Labor Practice when it is organized by a labor union.
This secondary boycott has very strong echoes of the Arab economic boycott of Israel, which started before the State of Israel was even born, and extended into secondary and even tertiary boycotts until these were outlawed by the US.
The Arab boycott was formally declared by the newly formed Arab League Council on December 2, 1945: “Jewish products and manufactured goods shall be considered undesirable to the Arab countries.” All Arab “institutions, organizations, merchants, commission agents and individuals” were called upon “to refuse to deal in, distribute, or consume Zionist products or manufactured goods.” As is evident in this declaration, the terms “Jewish” and “Zionist” were used synonymously by the Arabs. Thus, even before the establishment of Israel, the Arab states had declared an economic boycott against the Jews of Palestine.
The boycott, as it evolved after 1948, is divided into three components. The primary boycott prohibits direct trade between Israel and the Arab nations. The secondary boycott is directed at companies that do business with Israel. The tertiary boycott involves the blacklisting of firms that trade with other companies that do business with Israel.
In 1977, Congress prohibited U.S. companies from cooperating with the Arab boycott. When President Carter signed the law, he said the “issue goes to the very heart of free trade among nations” and that it was designed to “end the divisive effects on American life of foreign boycotts aimed at Jewish members of our society.”
The Arab League threatened to take a decisive stand against the new law, which was regarded as part of “a campaign of hysterical laws and bills . . . which Israel and world Zionism are trying not only to enforce on the U.S.; but also in some countries of Western Europe.”
Contrary to claims that the bill would lead to a drastic reduction in American trade with the Arab world, imports and exports increased substantially. Broader diplomatic and cultural relations also improved. Nevertheless, certain U.S. companies were blacklisted for their relations with Israel. In addition, few other nations adopted anti-boycott laws and, instead, complied with the boycott. For example, the Military Aircraft Division of British Aerospace sent a purchase order to an American supplier in connection with the British agreement to sell Saudi Arabia Tornado aircraft and other weapons in the late 1980’s. It guaranteed none of the items “are made in Israel directly or indirectly either in whole or in part and such items are not reshipped from Israel for Israeli account or by proxy for or on behalf of or with any persons or organizations resident in Israel. The supplier moreover warrants not to dispatch any of the items on any Israeli carrier.”
Reinforcing this view of the British as anti-Israel and prepared to cooperate with the anti-Israel boycott, Wikipedia states:
Of all the Western countries, only the United Kingdom has not passed legislation against the Arab boycott.
Perhaps this explains why the BDS movement is so much stronger and more vociferous in the UK than in any other country.
Please help us to denounce this anti-Israel boycott. Boycott the co-op, let your friends and neighbours know, tweet this news, tweet the Co-op or write on their Facebook wall to let them know what you think of their disgusting decision, facebook it to your friends, send it out by email, and write to your local MP.
A more positive thing that you can do is Buycott Israel. Buy Israeli goods! Buy Blue and White!