High street Co op stores in Northern Ireland are boycotting goods from Israeli companies – and from no other country on earth.
The Co op’s regional secretary, Gerard Hill, was told by Democratic Unionist party elected representatives that there is widespread concern about this policy. The DUP is the largest political party in the Province.
David McIlveen, MLA North Antrim, said: “This boycott will target the jobs and livelihood of normal people like all of us trying to make a living in hard economic times. This is clearly an ill-judged decision”.
Peter Weir, MLA North Down, said: “This policy will give the impression that the Co-op is taking sides in a very complex and troubled part of the world. I appreciate this has arisen from an orchestrated political campaign by a small group of activists, but I believe the Co-op needs to abandon this mistaken policy”.
Peter Martin, North Down Councillor, who organised the meeting, said: “three weeks ago I gave the Co-op a list of countries [with extremely poor human rights records] – they have been unable, or unwilling, to confirm or deny that they trade with businesses which source goods from these countries. If my fears are correct, this would demonstrate incredible hypocrisy and double standards regarding this current decision.”
William Humphrey, MLA for North Belfast, said: ‘The Jewish community in Northern Ireland has always played a valuable and positive role in our society as in general has the Co-operative movement. I believe that the Co-op has to show some respect to the wider Jewish community, by dropping this discriminatory stance. They need to rethink and reverse their position.’
Steven Jaffe, co chair of Northern Ireland Friends of Israel said: “On behalf of NIFI I would like to thank the DUP elected representatives for meeting with Co op officials. I am delighted they made it absolutely clear that many people find this boycott policy highly offensive. If the Co op wishes to encourage peace in the Middle East it should be building bridges.