One of the largest supermarket chains in Britain has announced that it intends to boycott Israeli agricultural exporters that market also produce from the West Bank settlements.
While British food retailers have for some years now been labeling products that are grown or manufactured in settlements and in some cases boycotting them entirely, this is the first move by a major company to end all dealings with companies that export products from within the Green Line and from the settlements. The main companies that will be impacted by this decision are Agrexco, Mehadrin and Arava.
The announcement came this weekend following years of campaigning by pro-Palestinian organizations in Britain that have been lobbying for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel. Co-op, the fifth biggest supermarket chain in Britain has emphasized that this is not a boycott of Israel and that it will continue doing business with companies that can guarantee none of their products originate from outside the Green Line.
The attempts to limit the export of settlement produce to Europe were led in the past by the European Union and the British government. In 2009, the British government, at the express instructions of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, issued guidelines to retailers on clear labeling of produce made in settlements, differentiating it from Palestinian produce and products that were made within the Green Line. These guidelines followed Israeli refusals to label settlement products before being exported to the EU. The issue of labeling settlement produce was a major bone of contention between the British and Israeli governments at the time.
In recent years, the BDS movement has targeted companies such as Agrexco, an export cooperative that serves thousands of farmers, kibbutzim and small agricultural companies in Israel that has continued to export settlement produce.
Hilary Smith, of the Boycott Israel Network welcomed the the Co-op's decision saying that the chain "has taken the lead internationally in this historic decision to hold corporations to account for complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. We strongly urge other retailers to follow suit and take similar action."
The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem responded saying that "it is a pity to see some, who ostensibly pretend to contribute to peace and reconciliation, advance a negative agenda of boycotts, inject an atmosphere of confrontation and widen the distance between the parties involved. It would be prudent to seek a more positive approach to conflict resolution."
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