The Co-op needs to remember its ethics

By Jamie Slavin, August 30, 2012

Last week I found myself outside the Co-op’s Manchester HQ, surrounded by dedicated members of the local community… dressed as a giant orange.

Surreal? Yes. More surreal than the Co-op’s policy to boycott Israeli companies sourcing from settlements? Probably not.

There are many views about Israeli settlements, just as there are many views about every other controversial political situation.

And yet, once again, Israel has been singled out. Of all the countries on earth, of all the difficult political situations we face, this one tiny state is deemed worthy of more attention than all the others.
Clearly the orange suit did the trick as, after four months of asking for a meeting with the Co-op’s management, members of their ethical policy team spotted us and invited us in for a chat.

So we queried the Co-op’s decision. We pointed out that their democratic structures had been abused by single issue groups such as the PSC and actually this decision was perhaps not quite so representative of their membership.

We expounded on the hypocrisy of still sourcing products from China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia whilst choosing to boycott the only liberal democracy in the Middle East.

And most significantly, we queried the very basis of their decision.
You see, the Co-op boycotts Israeli companies which source any products from settlements, because the UN considers settlements illegal.

But here’s the problem: in doing this, the Co-op has devolved — no, worse — abdicated, its ethical decision-making to a body which is hardly the epitome of ethical judgment.

The UN has an inbuilt majority of states which, for religious or political reasons, oppose Israel. More General Assembly resolutions have been passed on Israel than any other nation combined. Gadaffi was invited on to the UN Human Rights Council just months before he was overthrown. In the Security Council the vetoes of China and Russia protect states such as Syria.

So apparently it’s just Israel that deserves this special treatment, dastardly Israel with its parliamentary democracy, equal rights for all citizens and freedom of religion and sexual orientation.

I have a great respect for the Co-op and the values on which it was founded. But they’ve got this one horribly wrong.

That’s hardly ethical.

Last updated: 11:04am, August 30 2012