Yes, you read that right.
The UK's Co-operative Group has announced that it's going to ban imports from Israeli companies which export or deal in produce from the West Bank or otherwise beyond the Green Line.
Here's a ringing statement of the political rationale for this boycott decision:
Hilary Smith, Co-op member and Boycott Israel Network (BIN) agricultural trade campaign coordinator, was quoted by The Guardian as saying that the Co-op "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 take similar action."
The Co-op has fallen over itself to announce that, no, they're not actually boycotting Israel, you understand. Just any Israeli companies that deal with produce from not just the West Bank, but any from over the Green Line. So that will include all the wines from the Golan Heights, and matzos and other religious goods baked or made in the Old City of Jerusalem but also all the produce that's exported from Gaza. And of course all the produce which Palestinian farmers in the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights produce.
You see, Palestinian Arab farmers are completely dependent on the high-tech logistics and technologies of the Israel-wide exporters like Agrexco, Mehadrin and all those other companies the Co-op's decided to boycott for the fast processing, refrigeration, air transport, EU certification and marketing. Without those companies exporting their produce to the UK, guess what? Those Palestinians will lose money hand over fist, if they're not driven completely out of business, by the loss of their currently very efficient Israeli exporters. There aren't any other local non-Israeli companies they can turn to. Try Jordan or Egypt? Not a chance.
Here's the viewpoint of a Gazan woman producer whose business and family was hit by the closing of the route to Europe via Agrexco after the Israelis shut the Keren Shalom checkpoint after an outburst of Hamas terrorist action.
Um Hajjar Al-Ghalayini, 46 years old, owns half an acre of sandy Gaza land that produces two tons of strawberries every season. Since her husband died two years ago, the crop is the sole means of support for her nine children, mother-in-law and widowed sister, so every one of the bright red berries counts.Last year, she had no choice but to sell her produce to the local market. That filled the Gaza markets with fruits and vegetables to the benefit of consumers, but for growers like Um Hajjar it was a disaster. Her earnings dropped by more than half and the family had a tough year economically. This week, as Israel took another step in easing its economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, Um Hajjar delivered her strawberries to the Kerem Shalom checkpoint on the Israel-Gaza border, their first leg of a journey to the more profitable markets in Europe.“Now I can say that things are getting back to normal, if not on the right track,” she told The Media Line.
Just last week in London, Livingstone declared himself against boycotts of Israeli goods and services at a meeting with Jewish Londoners. His Deputy Mayoral candidate running mate Val Shawcross proudly declared herself a member of the Co-operative Party.
The Co-operative Group is formally affiliated with the Co-operative Party which although nominally independent is an organization whose sole party political link is to the Labour Party. Co-operative Party election candidates stand for election as Labour candidates.
So, apart from Livingstone and Val Shawcross, there's a long list of 29 Co-operative Party MPs, who include many who are usually supportive of Israel and strongly opposed to boycotts. Those MPs include Louise Ellman, Luciana Berger, Stephen Twigg and Mike Gapes amongst others. And quite a few of them are London Assembly members, too, like Nicky Gavron and Murad Qureshi.
Are they in favour of boycotting the produce of Palestinian farmers? Do they think kosher wines from the Golan Heights and matzos baked in the Old City of Jerusalem should be boycotted?
Will the Labour London Assembly members be pressing for Palestinian and Israeli produce exported by Agrexco, Mehadrin and the other companies fingered by the Co-op to be banned from the GLA's premises?
I think they should be asked to tell us.
Elder of Ziyon now draws attention to the fact that the so-ethical Co-op's Co-op Bank is also the official channel for donations to the Hamas regime via the Viva Palestina fund so enthusiastically promoted by George Galloway:
According to their stated policies:"We will not finance any organisation that advocates discrimination and incitement to hatred."Yet they are the main way to fund Viva Palestina, which has numerous ties with Hamas.
The right to freedom of speech underpins the values of a democratic society and individuals and organisations should be free to express their views or beliefs. However, 99% of customers who participated in the review supported the bank's decision to withhold finance from those extremist organisations that advocate not only discrimination but hatred.
Can Livingstone, Val Shawcross and all those Co-op MPs and London Assembly members let us know whether they support the Viva Palestina project of collecting funds which are given to Hamas regime officials? Can they also explain to us how they are satisfied that the Co-op Bank is not contravening its own policies in allowing itself to be used to collect and pass wads of used banknotes to and through Hamas, which has a stellar record of suppressing free speech and inciting hatred of Jews and Israel, not least through its own Charter?
If they think the money is just going to charitable work and is untouched by the Hamas hate machine, what are the processes they have used to monitor that?
Oh, and by the way, that's bankers in the spotlight again, isn't it? Only somehow, I can't quite see Ed Miliband getting up on his hind legs to fulminate about this at Prime Minister's Question Time, can you?