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Desmond Tutu endorses US grocery chain boycott decision

July 30, 2010 11:13 A.M. (Updated: July 30, 2010 8:04 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - US-based Olympiya Foods Coop grocery store voted to join the international boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign, in what its board said was a move "to compel Israel to follow international law and respect Palestinian human rights."

The move was endorsed on Tuesday by South Africa's Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said the coop was the "first to build off of that legacy in support of freedom for Palestinians. I encourage other cooperatives, grocers, and businesses to follow their courageous example of boycotting Israeli goods and for shoppers to support their principled stand."

Not all of the coop members agreed, however, with several publicly announcing their suspension of membership or demanding dues refunds after the boycott announcement.

"Got our $24 membership refund today. We'll miss the salad bar but can't be associated with old fashioned jew hating," one member said on the group's discussion board.

In a statement explaining the coop's decision to boycott Israeli products and divest from companies who support human rights violations against Palestinians, the group quoted Nelson Mandela, who said “Boycott is not a principle; it is a tactic depending upon circumstances….A boycott is directed against a policy and the institutions which support that policy either actively or tacitly. Its aim is not to reject, but to bring about change.”

A recent wave of boycott announcements, from two Spanish municipalities who announced the end to the sale of Eldan water supplies, Italian grocery chains that said Israeli goods would no longer be sold in shops, and a handful of celebrities who announced that they would not participate in the recent Jerusalem Film Fest, all follow the Palestinian Authority campaign to rid the West Bank of goods produced in Israeli settlements.

The campaign, criticized by some as too little too late, declared illegal the sale or purchase of goods produced or manufactured in illegal Israeli settlements inside the 1967 borders, in what peace negotiators hope will be the boundaries of a Palestinian state. Officials have expressly stated that the Palestinian boycott targets only goods made in settlements, and not goods made in the internationally-recognized borders of Israel.

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