Irish Trade Union Calls for Israel Boycott, but Major Businesses Slow to Respond

Israeli carrots disappear from shelves of one chain, but store says it's not a boycott.

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Carrots. An Israeli-grown variety has been ordered off the shelves in an Irish chain, but stores say it's not a boycott.Credit: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

A leading Irish supermarket chain has ordered all its stores to remove Israeli carrots from their shelves, but says the move was not part of a boycott of Israeli goods, the Belfast Telegraph reported Wednesday.

The order came the same day the SuperValu chain was asked by a trade union to participate in such a boycott, the Telegraph reported. But the chain, which is part of Ireland's largest grocery and food distributor, the Musgrave Group, said there was no ban on the sourcing and sale of products from Israel.

"SuperValu is not involved in a boycott of Israeli produce," the company said in a statement. "We understand that this is an emotive issue. However, we have a policy of not taking a position on international affairs."

The Mandate trade union has asked more than 20 Irish retailers to boycott Israel as a form of protest against the Israel-Gaza fighting, but businesses have not been rushing to heed the call – or at least to publicly state that they are doing so, according to Irish media reports.

Mandate official David Gibney told the Irish Times on Tuesday that just two companies – the department stores Brown Thomas and Shaws – had responded to the boycott call, and both said they were unsure whether they sell Israeli goods.

The SuperValu chain, meanwhile, confirmed that it sent out an email to all 232 of its stores on Friday, saying the Chantenay variety of carrots must not be sold. However, it said the reason is that it gives preference to food grown or manufactured in Ireland – where 75 percent of store products come from – and prioritizes supply from Great Britain and Europe when Irish products are not available.

"Very occasionally we source some products from Palestine and Israel when we cannot get sufficient supply from our main markets," SuperValu said in a statement. "We currently have sufficient stock from our usual supply market, with no goods ordered from Palestine and Israel at this time."

The supermarket chain was one of the retailers contacted by Ireland's Mandate trade union Friday, in an effort to convince them to boycott Israeli goods and produce, the Telegraph reported.

Claims of a boycott circulated the same day, after managers in all SuperValu stores were ordered to take Chantenay carrots off the shelves and dispose of them, the paper said.

Mandate initially sought a boycott of Israeli goods produced in the Palestinian territories, but has since called for the ban to be extended to all Israeli produce, the Telegraph reported. It said that as of midday Wednesday, 7,456 people had signed an online petition calling on more than 20 companies in Ireland not to trade with Israel because of "war crimes against the Palestinian people."

Several small businesses in Ireland have announced they are joining the boycott, like the Yard Florist and the Exchequer restaurant-bar, both in Dublin, the Times said, adding that community members in the town of Kinvara said they united to boycott all Israeli goods, including fruit, vegetables, herbs, cosmetics, toys and tool boxes. The Exchequer posted on its Facebook page that recent events in Gaza represent "evil at its worst," the paper said.

Larger businesses have not been as quick to jump on the boycott bandwagon, according to Irish media reports.

On Sunday, the Smyths chain of 70 toy stores throughout Great Britain and Ireland told one of its branches to remove a sign on the door informing members of the public they had taken down products made in Israel, the Times said. A photograph of the sign was posted on the Israeli Embassy in Ireland's Twitter account, which added: "So what's next? No dogs or Jews allowed?"

Smyths later said the company does "not engage in national or international political affairs" and said a decision by one of its stores to remove Israeli products has been reversed.

"Our customers should be free to make their own decisions," the company said in a statement.