Palestine Solidarity Campaign has written to the Managing Director of Waitrose, Mark Price, asking for a meeting to discuss the supermarket chain’s promotion of Israel. In February, Waitrose distributed an Israeli Government Tourist Office brochure entitled ‘Taste of Israel’. The brochure was included as a supplement in the Waitrose in-house magazine, ‘My Kitchen’.
PSC sent the following letter to Mr Price on 18th March:
Dear Mr Price
Palestine Solidarity Campaign was surprised to see Waitrose participating in a promotion of Israel in February, with your in-store distribution of the Israeli government’s ‘Taste of Israel’ brochure.
As you will no doubt be aware, Israel’s armed forces killed more than 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza last summer, 504 of whom were children, including babies. You will also be aware of Israel’s brutal military occupation of Palestinian land, ongoing now for nearly 50 years, and its blockade of Gaza which denies the civilian population access to adequate food, water, medical supplies and fuel. You will also no doubt be aware of Israel’s flagrant violations of a whole swathe of UN resolutions and international law, and its denial of Palestinian human rights.
Given this, we cannot see how your promotion of Israel, for which you would have been paid by the Israeli state tourist office, squares with your proclaimed ethical values and your support for the Fairtrade Foundation.
Moreover, the ‘Taste of Israel’ brochure, which you chose to include as a supplement in the Waitrose magazine, was grossly inaccurate. It claimed Palestinian and Arab food to be Israeli, and referred to Jerusalem and the Golan Heights as being in Israel.
Jerusalem, as observers of international law know, is divided, with East Jerusalem recognised as Palestinian territory which has been illegally occupied and annexed by Israel. The Golan Heights is Syrian territory, illegally occupied by Israel.
You may already be aware that Palestine Solidarity Campaign has lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority over the ‘Taste of Israel’ brochure distributed in Waitrose stores in February. The Advertising Standards Authority has upheld complaints against the Israeli state tourist office in the recent past for similar false advertising, and it is a great shame that Waitrose agreed to distribute the Israeli government’s inaccurate advertising again last month.
It is also a shame that Waitrose initially chose to ignore emails from supporters of justice for Palestinians, complaining about the ‘Taste of Israel’ brochure. This led to consumers expressing their frustration with Waitrose on social media, and this story has now hit the mainstream media.
Social media continues to buzz with comments about Waitrose and the ‘Taste of Israel’ brochure. However, instead of engaging with those raising legitimate concerns, Waitrose appears to be blocking many of those commentators, including Palestinians who have directly suffered under Israeli occupation, from its Facebook and Twitter sites.
As part of the John Lewis Partnership, you will be aware of the power of public protest. John Lewis stores withdrew SodaStream drinks makers from their shelves at the beginning of July 2014 following fortnightly protests outside John Lewis’ flagship London store and regional campaigns. The protests and campaigns highlighted John Lewis’ stocking of SodaStream products which are produced in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
Our communications with John Lewis shoppers and partners during those fortnightly protests revealed clear concern that John Lewis’ ethical principles were being flouted by its stocking of SodaStream products. During this period, despite a number of requests by Palestine Solidarity Campaign to meet and discuss ethical trading, John Lewis refused that opportunity.
John Lewis’ failure to engage positively with those calling for respect for human rights and international law had a damaging impact on its brand image. We are surprised, therefore, that the John Lewis Partnership is continuing this approach, and that the Partnership, through Waitrose, has chosen to engage again with the Israeli occupation rather than with its consumers who wish to see the Partnership acting ethically.
As Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, therefore, I would appreciate a meeting with you at your earliest convenience to discuss this further, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Director, Palestine Solidarity Camapaign[End of letter]