The Co-Operative Group
Manchester M4 8A
30th April 2012
Dear Mr Marks,
I am deeply disappointed and concerned with the decision that the Co-Operative Group has recently taken to no longer trade with Israeli companies that source their produce from the ‘settlements’. The impact that any boycott actions have in political and economic matters in the Middle East are negligible, unlike the distress that this policy has caused the Jewish communities in the UK. Your existing policy of boycotting settlement products and this new extension only works to divide the different communities in this country at a time when its cohesion is vital.
The debate over the use of boycotts and their benefits has been going on for many years now and it is clear that any direct action, such as the one that the Co-Operative Group has chosen goes to harm the local Palestinian population more than the companies that have been named under your this resolution. Many thousands of Palestinians are employed in the West Bank and even the main Palestinian Trade Union, the PGFTU, have publicly and openly spoken out against any form of boycotts or sanctions. I would suggest that your organisation should investigate who would be harmed the most by its actions. I would suggest that it would be the Palestinian people themselves.
Furthermore, while the motions to boycott companies complicit in ‘violations of Palestinian Human Rights’, as Co-Op member Hilary Smith puts in, names the Israeli companies directly, there is no mention of any companies from any other country that would fall into this banner. It would, therefore, be very easy to conclude that this motion is simply an attempt to attack Israel rather than working for any potential moral purpose.
This new resolution was brought by The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) who work to demonise and delegitimise Israel at every opportunity and even their own logo highlights their desire for one Palestinian state rather than two states living in peace. If the Co-Operative deals with these types of issues in an even handed way, then I would also question as to why it is acceptable for products from Occupied North Cyprus to be labelled as ‘produce of Turkey’ with no comments or concerns from your Board or more politically active members.
Boycotts and sanctions do little apart from to create further tension and division in an already fraught political arena. There are countless programmes and organisations that work to build bridges between Israel and the Palestinians that have a clear and positive impact on the economic and political environments of both peoples. There are better ways that your organisation can make a difference to the region without taking sides in a difficult and complicated conflict.