The opening of a new Co-op Food shop in Hampstead, North London, has stirred a debate in the local community. According to a report by the Jewish Chronicle (JC), some Jewish residents intend to boycott the store due to its policy not to source products from Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Two Jewish locals told JC they perceived the Group’s policy as an anti-Israel boycott.
Since 2009, the Co-op Group has operated a Human Rights and Trade Policy, which sets out the exceptional circumstances under which it will withdraw trade from a state, area or settlement.
One such circumstance is where there is a broad international consensus that the status of a designated region or state is illegal. These include the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and the Moroccan settlements in Western Sahara. The Group does not engage with with Israeli suppliers known to work with the settlements either.
However, a spokesman for the Co-op Group said that the boycott should not be perceived as one against all Israeli enterprises, just the ones operating in the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. He said: “I would emphasise that this does not constitute a boycott of Israeli businesses. We remain committed to sourcing produce from and trading with Israeli suppliers that do not source from the settlements.”
The issue has also generated a discussion on social media, with some expressing support for the retailer’s stance.
Good on the coop I will support their boycott of goods from illegal settlements
— Allan Skerratt (@AllanSkerratt) June 7, 2018
It’s not a boycott of all Israeli goods, it’s a pretty uncontroversial refusal to stock settlement goods- there’s no reason for anyone to boycott Coop on this basis even if you disagree with BDS, particularly when the Coop is much more ethical than most of its competitors?? 🙃 https://t.co/iQid41Q5r4
— Charlotte 🌹 (@charlotte2153) June 6, 2018
Around the world, co-operatives have been pioneers of boycotts – with one of the biggest being a boycott of South African goods in protest against apartheid repression and the incarceration of Nelson Mandela.
In 1985, Co-operative Retail Services and the Co-operative Wholesale Society stated it would no longer stock any produce from South Africa. Other societies soon followed, with Scotmid and Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester among the first to ban South African goods in response to member pressure.
However, the debate continues, with some people choosing to boycott the current boycott.
I shall, henceforth, cease to use Coop food stores. There are two in my village, but I have a car and therefore choice.
— Valerie Gray (@valeriemgray) June 6, 2018
— SussexFriendsIsrael (@SussexFriends) June 6, 2018