Shurat HaDin Warns Coca-Cola to Cut Ties with Regional CEO For BDS Support
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center has called on the Coca-Cola Company to cancel its affiliation with the holder of the Coca-Cola franchise in the Palestinian Authority, the Palestine National Beverage Company, and its head, Zahi Khouri, because he has supported the Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions movement against Israel and made other incendiary comments against the Jewish state.
In a letter to Muhtar Kent, Chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, President of Shurat HaDin, warned the company that it should not affiliate with any person who calls for a boycott or similar effort against Israel or its manufacturers, products and services.
She said that Shurat HaDin was prepared to take legal action if necessary to ensure that the company did not promote a boycott of Israel.
“We wish to put the Coca-Cola Company on notice that the BDS movement’s efforts are unlawful racial discrimination on the basis of national origin and/or race, creed and religion under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and numerous U.S. state and federal statutes,” Ms. Darshan-Leitner said in the letter.
In May Khouri received the Oslo Business for Peace Award, an event Coca-Cola celebrated in a blog post.
In that post, Khouri said “my story embodies what Coca-Cola does around the world — bringing people together, strengthening local economies and investing in sustainable communities.”
Yet Khouri has taken public positions that are “directly contrary to the idea of a peacefully negotiated two-state solution,” Ms. Darshan-Leitner said in the letter to Coke CEO Kent.
He made his support for BDS clear in an op-ed piece in September, where he said that “the nonviolent efforts of BDS advocates make sense as a means to force Israel to recognize that the occupation is not cost-free.”
He has called for compensation for Palestinian refugees, “a notoriously anti-peace position,” she said. Khouri “has also made patently false and incendiary statements accusing Israel of stealing Palestinian land and culture and comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa,” she said. And he has accused Israel of stealing Palestinian history and culture.
The BDS movement is inherently racist, anti-Semitic, biased and prejudicial and has an extremist agenda that unfairly singles out Israel and Jews, Ms. Darshan-Leitner said in the letter. The BDS movement’s goal is solely the destruction of the State of Israel and its Jewish community.
“Khouri’s remarks about bringing people together are thus absurd in the wake of his angrily divisive remarks about Israel and his support for BDS,” Ms. Darshan-Leitner said separately.
Coca-Cola’s Code of Business Conduct requires it to comply “with all applicable trade restrictions and boycotts imposed by the U.S. government,” Ms. Darshan-Leitner noted. Coca-Cola also must abide by U.S. laws that prohibit companies from participating in any international boycott not sanctioned by the U.S. government, she said.
And its Code acknowledges that the company’s non-U.S. franchisees are bound by U.S. law, Ms. Darshan-Leitner said.
The situation also comes alongside the recent remarks of the CEO of France’s Orange telecom-services company, she noted. And just as Orange made clear, Coca-Cola should make clear that it will not support any kind of boycott against Israel, she said.
“As a respected global brand built over decades, Coca-Cola cannot and should not jeopardize its reputation by connecting itself with a person who so clearly supports the BDS movement, which is an effort designed entirely to delegitimize the State of Israel,” she said.
Coca-Cola should immediately cancel its affiliation with Coca-Cola Palestine and Zahi Khouri, Ms. Darshan-Leitner said.