John Lewis Would Rather Fund Ethnic Cleansing than Remove One Product March 16, 2014 00:06

So today I got our house insurance renewal policy from John Lewis. I called them up to cancel my automatic renewal.

Call centre: So your policy is due for renewal on 21 March.
Me: Yes.
CC: And you’d like to cancel it?
Me: Yes.
CC: Why will you be choosing not to renew with John Lewis?
Me: Because I disagree strongly with John Lewis’s conscious decision to financially support human rights violations by Israel.
CC: OK. Thank you for your business.

John Lewis. A partnership running a model designed to benefit everyone who works for them. Supposedly a retailer with a conscience, and more egalitarian than your standard retail department store chain. And yet, they have made a blatantly conscious decision to put a miniscule bit of profit above human rights.

The Partnership sells products made in Israeli settlements on the West Bank. Those settlements are illegal under international law - they flout the Geneva conventions which were established to try to protect people from the violence and greed of war and occupation. And all produce made in those settlements is driving money back into them to help keep the settlers there, and the natives who were ethnically cleansed out of their homes away.

Let's put this in perspective. John Lewis sell tens of thousands of product lines. We are here talking about a single product line (Sodastream). So this one product line, which would impact their profits minimally, is too much for them to remove even though it supports ethnic cleansing activities. To quote the organisation’s own PR:

“While I am sure a number of John Lewis’ customers may share these views, equally I am sure others would not and it is for this reason that John Lewis always seeks to remain non-aligned.  In our view, it is not the place of John Lewis to decide which of these views is right or wrong nor do we believe it is our place to make such a decision on behalf of our customers.

We are aware of the complex nature of the situation in Israel and the West Bank and we believe international bodies such as the United Nations, working with national governments, are best placed to resolve these issues.  Therefore, you will understand that any decision to stop stocking Sodastream products in the future would be made solely on commercial grounds by our buying teams.” 

It astounds me how some people see human rights abuses and violations of Geneva conventions simply as points of debate, complexity or controversy that they should be impartial to. Would those same people look at a murderer and say “Well, murder is complicated, and we’re not going to make a judgement on it."? Would they choose to keep supplying the murderer with cash that he can use to buy knives to stab people?

The Sodastream thing is no more ‘complex’ than murder or rape. It is simply against the law. Placing factories in land that is illegally occupied under international law violates the Geneva conventions. So it’s not only hugely immoral, but it is black and white against the law. John Lewis’s CEO knows that, and has decided that he’d be happy continue to make money selling machines that put gas in your drink while driving profits to ethnic cleansing projects.

So John Lewis is not going to get more of my business. Never knowingly uphold human rights. Particularly if it's Palestinians.

To find out more and what you can do about it, visit the Palestine Solidarity Campaign website.