Supermarkets dismiss ‘global boycott’ drive

By Marcus Dysch, February 15, 2013
Under threat in Britain? Israeli produce

Under threat in Britain? Israeli produce

Leading supermarkets have rejected calls to boycott companies and suppliers that source products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign claimed 3,500 supporters had written to Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose and Asda, as part of a global campaign launched last weekend.

But the initiative appeared to have had little impact on the supermarkets, with most confirming they had received few if any complaints from protesters.

The companies were encouraged to follow the actions of the Co-operative, which last year ended all engagement with Israeli suppliers known to work with the settlements.

The global campaign was supported in Britain by the charity War on Want, which has regularly lobbied for sanctions against Israel.

The PSC encouraged supermarkets to support Palestinian agriculture and not use suppliers who “profit from Israel’s illegal occupation, settlements and the wall”.

A number of the supermarkets targeted by the campaign refuse to sell products from settlements. But the Middle East Monitor group claimed that some Israeli producers were circumventing those arrangements by labelling items from settlements as “produce of Israel”.

Protesters demonstrated outside dozens of Sainsbury’s stores on Saturday. The company — which does not sell settlement goods — said it would not impose a ban on Israeli products but allow “customers the opportunity to make their own decisions”.

Sainsbury’s also said it required suppliers to provide “full traceability” of products.

Morrisons said it had received a few anti-Israel messages on Twitter, but dismissed these as “a cut-and-paste job”.

Waitrose confirmed it sold Israeli items but only those “from [within] internationally recognised (pre-1967) borders”.

A spokeswoman said food-sourcing was not politically motivated.

A spokeswoman for the Fair Play Campaign Group, which opposes boycotts, said: “This is yet another example of increasingly desperate attempts to revive a stuttering anti-Israel boycott campaign. Such actions risk importing the Middle East conflict to the UK and dividing local communities.

The government supports voluntary labelling of products but has repeatedly refused to impose a ban on settlement produce.

Last updated: 10:06am, February 15 2013