Unilever denies ethical basis for Israel saleJanuary 2009
Unilever is selling its stake in a factory in an illegal Israeli settlement on the West Bank – but has denied the decision results from ethical considerations.
The company’s 51 per cent share of the 140-employee Beigel & Beigel bakery in the settlement of Ariel has been criticized by campaign groups, but it insisted the reasons for the sale were purely commercial.
It said the withdrawal was part of a divestment from non-core businesses, and had been decided ‘with reluctance after a period of analysis and review’.
However, United Civilians for Peace (UCP), a Netherlands-based human rights pressure group that campaigns for corporate withdrawals from West Bank territory, said it had had talks with Unilever on ‘ethical considerations with regard to investment in settlements’ – and that the company had responded to its campaigning. ‘This shows that Unilever takes seriously both the provisions of international law as well as its corporate social responsibility,’ it said.
UCP, which was set up by non-governmental organizations including Oxfam and Pax Christi, says the land on which the factory stands was confiscated from Palestinian villagers by the Israeli military in 1981.
A number of companies operating in or sourcing from the occupied West Bank have recently come under increasing pressure from campaigners.
Last year, residents of a village in Palestine began a lawsuit against two Montreal-based building companies active in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, and UK supermarkets J. Sainsbury, Somerfield, Tesco and Waitrose were targeted for sourcing food from the area (EP10, issue 4, p2).
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