M&S Boycott Starts to Bite

Islamic Human Rights Commission

For immediate release
21st December 2000
M&S Boycott Starts to Bite
Muslim boycott escalates despite M&S denials


M&S department stores have been picketed nationwide for the last four weeks by Muslims outraged by the firm’s support for the Israeli regime. The boycott campaign was triggered by Israeli atrocities against Palestinian children, women and men. Chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC), Massoud Shadjareh said: “A vigorous boycott campaign against Israeli apartheid can be as effective as the boycott campaign against South African apartheid.” IHRC has supported the boycott campaign against Marks & Spencers due to the firm’s leading role in the British Zionist movement. This has included the sale of Israeli goods and the promotion of trade links between Britain and Israel. The M&S protests are the first step in a broader campaign for the total boycott of all Israeli goods and companies.

Last Saturday, the campaign escalated from London to major provincial cities, including Newcastle, Manchester and Birmingham. M&S was still expressing its traditional pro-Israeli position last week. A spokeswoman, Cheryl Kuczynski said: “We are a global player and we support many countries, including Israel. We have a history and a background with Israel that we are very proud of.” (Jewish Telegraph Agency, 13 December 2000) It came as a surprise when, in the wake of persistent protests against M&S’ commercial support of Israel, the UK-based firm downplayed its links with the regime. “Marks and Spencers are attempting to distance themselves from their Jewish history following Muslim demonstrations over the weekend that called for a boycott of all M&S stores”, reports the London Jewish News. A spokesperson for the firm said that M&S was attempting to remind the public that as a plc, “the store is owned by its shareholders and cannot have any bias towards any one country.” (London Jewish News, 15 December.

M&S is now arguing that the firm does not trade exclusively with Israel, but also with other countries in the Middle East such as Egypt, Jordan, and so on. A spokesperson said: “We are not supporting any country. We do not support Israel.” M&S’ public about-turn demonstrates the relative success of the current campaign.

Despite recent statements, M&S’ commercial support of Israel continues. Massoud Shadjareh stated: “Our concern is not with M&S’ Jewish roots, but its historic and continuing support for Israel. This is not an issue of race or religion, but human rights. We don’t care who else M&S trades with, but they shouldn’t trade with the Israeli apartheid regime. That M&S is trading with other countries in the Middle East, does not justify the fact that the firm is also supporting Israel.”

For more information on the above, please contact the IHRC Press Office on (+44) 20 8902 0888, (+44) 958 522 196, e-mail: ihrc@dial.pipex.com.