Historically, Marks & Spencer has made statements in support of Zionism. Lord Sieff, chairman and founder of M&S who died in 2001, made several statements in support of Israel’s military policies. In 1941, Sieff said that “large sections of the Arab population of Palestine should be transplanted to Iraq and other Middle-Eastern Arab States” (Jewish Chronicle, 21/09/1941). In 1990, Sieff, in a book entitled On Management: The Marks and Spencer Way, wrote that one of the fundamental objectives of M&S was to “aid the economic development of Israel.”
There have been no reports of M&S openly showing ideological support for Israel since 2004. The retail company has repeatedly asserted that “[it has] no ‘special’ relationship with any government, political party or religious group” but accepts that M&S does “make representations to governments in support of [its] commercial aims.” M&S management has not, to our knowledge, commented on Lord Sieff’s remarks in support of Zionism and has not made a statement as to whether the current management stands by them.
In 1998, Sir Richard Greenbury, then CEO of Marks & Spencer, received the Jubilee Award from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. In 2000, the Jerusalem Report stated that “M&S supports Israel with $233 million in trade each year.”
In October 2000, the Jewish Chronicle reported that the British-Israel Chamber of Commerce (B-ICC) had held meetings at Marks & Spencer’s offices in Baker Street. However, in 2008 the store claimed that M&S “do not host meetings on our premises for the B-ICC.” Nevertheless, in December 2004, Stuart Rose, CEO of Marks and Spencer at the time, was a listed speaker at the annual dinner of the B-ICC.
When questioned in correspondence about the sale of Israeli goods in M&S stores in 2008, an M&S spokesperson said that the company buys “from Israel as… from 70 other countries…” and went on to state that the company would continue to do so. The letter continued to say that, “[w]e always put the country of origin on the products we sell. Where we buy Israeli products we label them as products of Israel.”
M&S stocks Israeli grapes, lychees, figs, plums, dates, fresh herbs, sweet potatoes, potatoes (Maris Piper, Desiree, Jacket, Marfona, and King Edward). Many of these products are imported through Carmel-Agrexco, a company part-owned by the Israeli state.
M&S also stocks large quantities of Delta Galil clothing, largely underwear. Delta Galil is Israel’s largest manufacturer and marketer of textiles. It is also a major beneficiary of the establishment of ‘Qualifying Industrial Zones’ (QIZ) in Egypt and Jordan which promote an unequal normalisation of trade arrangements between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt and Jordan. Marks and Spencer also sells textiles produced by Israeli firms, Solog and Polgat.
Until very recently, M&S openly sold products from illegal Israeli settlements. The Guardian reported in 2004 that the company stocked an extensive range of settlement products. Since 2007, however, M&S has made repeated statements to the press claiming that they do not stock goods from the Occupied Territories (see here, for example). In 2008, the store wrote: “We do not buy products from the West Bank, Golan Heights or Gaza as we cannot safely visit the suppliers in these areas because of the current security situation.” It seems probable that the move to cease selling settlement products was, in fact, due to effective campaigning, protests and fear of adverse press coverage.
But despite the above assurance, there is evidence that M&S continues to stock Hadiklaim dates packaged as an M&S own brand product. According to a recent report by School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Hadiklaim, the Israel Date Growers’ Cooperative Ltd, “exports dates from Israel and from the occupied territories, especially Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley.”
In correspondence with SOAS in 2008, David Gregory, Technical Food Director for M&S, stated the following:
“In the past, we have sold dates from this region. However, we made a policy decision sometime ago to cease all purchases from this area. However, our UK suppliers do buy raw material (dates) from the organisation Hadiklaim on our behalf. The contract explicitly prohibits purchase from Palestinian Territories and Hadiklaim source the dates from elsewhere within Israel to satisfy our requirements. Traceability systems are in place to confirm the source of the dates.”
M&S has faced sustained protests due to their historic ideological support for the Israeli state and because of their policy of stocking Israeli goods. Pickets have been held and store signs and billboards subvertised. In Manchester, three pickets were held in January 2009 in response to the bombing of Gaza. Weekly demonstrations have been held in Newcastle and in London. M&S has repeatedly ignored campaigners’ representations against the continued sale of Israeli goods.
Marks and Spencer plc
35 North Wharf Road
London W2 1NW
“We will always work to respect strongly held cultural or ethical beliefs.”
(Code of Ethics)
Grapes, lychees, fresh figs, plums, dates, Hass avocados
Fresh herbs (possibly stated as from the West Bank)
Sweet potatoes, potatoes ( Maris Piper, Desiree, Jacket, Marfona, King Edward), crunchy sweet red peppers, miniature potatoes, organic new potatoes
Direct Action Against Israel – Part 2
Palestine Israel Ethical Shopping Initiative