York University keeps Israel produce despite boycott claims

A university students’ union store has ruled out a boycott of Israeli products in a further blow to anti-Israel activists.

There had been confusion at the University of York after a student newspaper claimed the manager of a union-based Costcutter store had agreed to ban Jaffa oranges.

The Nouse newspaper said the manager had taken the decision after meeting a delegation of seven Palestinian Solidarity Society students last Wednesday.

It reported PSS co-chair Mobeen Hussain describing the society’s “delight” at the store’s refusal to be “complicit in human rights violations, carried out in Israeli illegal settlements, through the use of such suppliers”.

Pro-Israel groups had attacked the “boycott”, with the Union of Jewish Students calling it “disappointing” and Stand for Peace saying it was an “example of intolerance and bigotry”.

But it emerged on Tuesday that the store had not implemented a ban.

The JC understands that the university’s director of commercial services made it “absolutely clear” to store staff – who are employed by the university – that there must be no boycott and there is “no question” of Israeli products being removed from the shelves.

A university source said: “Everyone has taken the word of a student newspaper as gospel. They can be a bit cavalier with the facts.”

The university student union ratified the PSS in January, having initially refused to give it full society status over fears it did not have “the potential to develop its members”.

A Costcutter spokesman said the company supported its franchisees’ decisions and that independent retailers must choose what products they stock.

Leading supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose last week rejected activists’ calls to boycott companies and suppliers that source products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The newspaper later retracted the story after consultation with the student union.

Last updated: 12:53pm, February 22 2013