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May 14, 2014 10:55 am

U.K. Cooperative Continues ‘Boycott’ of Israeli Produce Despite Woes

avatar by Josephine Bacon

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A recent event of Sussex Friends of Israel's "Pies Against Lies" initiative, launched to counter Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) protests at the Israeli-owned Ecostream store in Brighton, England. Photo: Oren Teichmann/Sussex Friends of Israel.

To paraphrase Dr. Samuel Johnson, “Anti-Semitism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

Despite the deep financial difficulties of the Cooperative Group’s businesses in the U.K., caused by a combination of dishonesty and mismanagement, the Group continues to boycott Israeli fruit and vegetables since they include produce from the West Bank (including Palestinian farmers’ produce). It is the only U.K. supermarket chain to do so.

The Cooperative Movement in the United Kingdom has a long and honorable history of working together to provide cheap food through its cooperatively-owned businesses – originally just grocery stores, then farms as well, and now pharmacies and funeral services. The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers was founded in 1844 to bring food at fair prices to the masses.

Unfortunately, since not everyone joins the Cooperative Executive Board for honorable reasons, the organization is now in deep trouble due to a combination of mismanagement, greed, and downright dishonesty. The Cooperative Bank, its flagship enterprise, is in debt to the tune of around U.S. $3 billion!

This is due partly to the unwise purchase of a failing savings and loan institution, the Britannia Building Society, and partly to the fact that the bank was headed by the Reverend Paul Flowers, a Methodist preacher, who – in addition to being deeply hostile to Israel – used to boast about his drug-taking, a habit that has now landed him in the courts. The food stores also suffered massive losses this year.

The annual members meetings that are now taking place are carefully stage managed by the Area Committees to ensure as little disruption from the members as possible. Nevertheless, Cooperative Group Board Director Michael Harriott announced at the South East Region Members Meeting held at Central Hall, Westminster, London, on May 10, that the boycott of Israeli agricultural produce would continue.

Despite the denial in previous Cooperative Group hand-outs that this is an actual boycott, Harriott did not dispute the questioner’s use of the term “boycott.”

There is no boycott of Israeli pharmaceuticals by the Coop’s pharmacies since, as one senior member admitted, this would leave the pharmacy shelves half-empty.

One of the strongest advocates of the boycott, Munir Malik, was recently removed from the Group Board for claiming to be an accountant despite having been declared bankrupt, also attended the meeting. At least for now, it seems the boycott goes on.

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