Saturday, August 04, 2012

The Co-Op's boycott of Israel: 20 questions

Letter from the Co-Op
In response to the Co-Op's well publicised decision to boycott all goods from 'illegal Israeli settlements' I withdrew all the money I had in a Britannia building society account (Britannia is part of the Co-Op) and wrote a letter explaining why.

I got the letter shown shown here from Amanda Bailey (Customer Relations). Here is the reponse I have sent back to her (for a different take on this story see here):

Amanda Bailey
Customer Relations
The Co-operative
Freepost MR9473

4 August 2012

Dear Ms Bailey,

Thank you for your letter of 19th July. I have a number of follow-up questions.

My first set of questions relate to your choice of criteria for boycotting countries. You assert that under your “Human Rights and Trade Policy” you withdraw all trade when there is a ‘broad international consensus a settlement is illegal’ and that ‘there are only two examples of such settlements: the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories and the Moroccan settlements in Western Sahara”.  Before addressing the issue of the legality or otherwise of the Israeli settlements, I note from your website that the most serious humans rights abusers in the world, namely Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Somalia, Venezuela, Yemen and Zimbabwe are not on your boycott list. So my questions are:

1. ‘Occupation’  is the only criteria that you mention; what other criteria do you have as part of your “Human Rights and Trade Policy”?

2. Is denial of equal rights to women and/or minorities included in your criteria, and if not why not?

3. Is persecution of gays and lesbians included in your criteria, and if not why not?

4. Is the brutal suppression of ethnic minorities and political dissidents included in your criteria, and if not why not?

5. Is sponsoring and glorifying terrorism included in your criteria, and if not why not?

6. Is state sponsored anti-Semitism included in your criteria, and if not why not?

7. Assuming the answer to at least one of questions 1-6 is ‘yes’ then why are you not boycotting goods from every one of the 58 Muslim countries in the world?

8. Is “conducting illegal wars far from a country’s own borders” one of the criteria, and if so why is the Co-Op not boycotting goods from the USA,  France, Italy, Holland etc. In fact, how comes the Co-Op is not boycotting goods from the UK?

My next set of questions concerns the issue of ‘illegal settlements’ of which you say there are only two examples (one of which is the Israelis):

9. Are you aware that, even according to the United Nations (resolution 242), the West Bank does not belong to any national territory but rather is considered disputed territory whose borders are to be determined under a final status peace agreement?

10. Are you aware of the recent Levy Report that demolishes the false narrative of Israeli settlement and occupation by restating many of the obvious points of law; most significantly that Israel is not an occupying power and did not seize any land from another state. Indeed all of the land that Israel is accused of occupying in the West Bank is actually land that was seized from it by the invading Jordanian and other Arab armies during its 1948 War of Independence?

11. Are you aware that the only legal basis for denouncing the Jews who returned in 1967 to the homes that they had been expelled from in 1948 as “settlers” is by recognizing the Jordanian conquests of those territories. But those conquests were never recognized or accepted. Not even by the international community.

12. Assuming that your claim of a ‘broad international consensus’ is the 2004 International Court of Justice ruling (which Israel did not participate in and which has been demolished by the Levy report) are you aware that one of the  ICC ‘judges’ was  Al Khasawneh who had a blatant conflict of interest, since he was an advisor to the King of Jordan and later became the Prime Minister of Jordan?

13. Why does your notion of occupied territories fail to include the approximately 160 other territories around the world that are ‘disputed’ (each of which necessarily involves one country ‘occupying it’ against the wishes of some other country or national group)?

14. In particular why does your definition not include genuinely brutal occupations such as: the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus, or even the Russian occupation of Abkhazia, especially as China, Russia and Turkey all of have infinitely worse human rights records than Israel? 

15. You are presumably aware that one of the disputed international territories is the Falklands Islands, which Argentina claims is illegally occupied by the UK. A significant majority of countries in the UN now agree with the Argentine position. So, as per question 8 above, why is the Co-Op not boycotting the UK?

16. Are you aware that any notion of an ‘international consensus’ is fundamentally irrelevant because the United Nations contains 58 Muslim states – all  human rights abusers as described above - who provide a built-in ‘consensus’ on any anti-Israel motion that anybody cares to think of? 

My next question concerns your assertion that the Co-Op “continue to seek increased trade with Palestinian businesses.” The corrupt Palestinian Authority is not only guilty of all of the human rights offences listed above, but is actually one of the world’s worst offenders. For anti-Semitism the PA truly are world-beaters with their indoctrination of children (becoming a suicide bomber to kill Jews is the highest ambition of most Palestinians children); in the Palestinian Authority selling land to a Jew (not an Israeli please note) is punishable by death and numerous Palestinian citizens have been killed for this ‘crime’. So:

17: How is the Co-Op’s “Human Rights and Trade Policy” consistent with seeking increased traded with such a brutal, corrupt regime?

And finally, three general questions:

18. Do you believe that Israel – the only liberal democracy in the Middle East where all minorities have equal rights – is a worse human rights violator than Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Russia, China etc?

19. How is your policy to boycott goods produced by Jewish communities in the West Bank anything other than pure anti-Semitism?

20. How and why did the Co-Op get hoodwinked into a nonsensical hypocritical policy (that will ultimately be self-damaging) by a small group of congenital anti-Semites disguised as ‘pro-Palestinian’ activists.

Yours sincerely,

Edgar Davidson

UPDATE 10 Sept 2012: See here.