The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid Israel is gaining momentum around the world. The boycott of Starbucks is Michigan's modest contribution to the worldwide movement. Here are a few other examples:
• South African dock workers refused to unload Israeli ships (Feb. 3rd 2009)
• Church of England divested from the Caterpillar bulldozer business responsible for demolishing 1,800 Palestinian homes (Feb. 8th 2009)
• Hampshire College became the first college in the U.S. to divest from Israel (Feb. 12th 2009)
• Canadian Union of Public Employees became the first North American Union to divest from Israel (May 27th 2006)
• The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, in the UK, declared an academic boycott of Israel (May 29th 2006)
In Michigan, we can help make the Starbucks boycott our success story. Let's end our complicity of silence regarding Israeli apartheid.
In 1998, Starbucks' C.E.O. Howard Shultz was given "The Israel 50th Anniversary Friend of Zion Tribute Award," by Aish HaTorah. News of the award was once displayed on the Starbucks website, but later deliberately removed to erase the link between the company and apartheid Israel after the boycott campaign gained momentum. The original page displaying the award can be seen at http://www.inminds.co.uk/boycott-starbucks.html.
Aish HaTorah, headquartered in the Old City of Jerusalem [internationally recognized as occupied territory], has been awarded by the government of Israel 40 percent of the Palestinian-owned land facing the Western Wall. Aish HaTorah champions the return of Jewish youth to Israel, and thus continues to prop the exclusivist nature of Israel as an apartheid state shutting out Palestinians and depriving them en mass of their right of return to their historic homeland. Such right has been enshrined in international law and U.N. resolutions. Howard Schultz has accepted an award from Aish HaTorah whose existence in Jerusalem violates Palestinian rights and is illegal under international law.
According to an article written on Sept. 26th 2008 by Meg Lauglin in the St. Petersburg Times, the same organization, Aish HaTorah, also developed the Clarion Fund, which distributed millions of DVDs through major newspapers across the U. S. of the anti-Islamic film "Obsession," which characterized Islam as a terrorist dogma. The Clarion Fund and Aish HaTorah International are also connected to a group called HonestReporting which produced "Obsession." All three companies share the same address in Manhattan and have shared staff.
Starbucks' Chairman Howard Schultz most critically has championed and funded defense of Israel on U.S. university campuses. He "has been praised by the Israeli Foreign Ministry for allowing American students to hear 'Israeli presentations on the Middle East crisis.'" It was this propaganda work on behalf of Israel that earned Schultz "The Israel 50th Anniversary Friend of Zion Tribute Award" by Aish HaTorah.
Even more damaging are the comments made by Schultz himself during Israeli massacres of Palestinians in Jenin in early April 2002. According to Starbucks: "The Cup That Cheers," written by William McDougall and published on Znet, July 11th 2002, quotes Shultz speaking at a Seattle synagogue, criticizing the Palestinians, saying, "They aren't doing their job ... they're not stopping terrorism." He also warned attendees at the synagogue that "the rise of anti-Semitism is at an all-time high since the 1930s," and "If you leave this synagogue tonight and go back to your home and ignore this, then shame on us." His comments were protested for being anti-Palestinian and for comparing legitimate criticism of Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands and its human rights violations against Palestinian citizens with anti-Semitism.
The hastily retracted comments — which had received an ovation from the crowded synagogue — have further added to the growing unease amongst corporate watchers who are concerned that Schultz's growing reputation as a mouthpiece for Israeli propaganda could have an adverse effect on Starbucks business.
Should Starbucks Chairmen Howard Schultz, avid supporter of Israel, continue profiting from Dearborn's Arab and Muslim dollars? Boycott Starbucks in Dearborn.
The writer is a community activist and Defend Gaza Committee member in charge of the Starbucks Boycott.