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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Lawsuit threatened against Coca Cola for call to boycott Israel

I am old enough to remember when certain countries - including Israel - either had Coke or Pepsi available, but not both. That was because if you sold in Israel, you couldn't sell in Russia or the Arab world. One of the first transactions I worked on when I made aliya (immigrated to Israel) was a financing for the company that bought the rights to be the first to market Pepsi in this country.
Now, at least one Coca Cola franchisee would like to go back to those days, and Coca Cola has decided to give his views a platform. The franchisee is a 'Palestinian American' named Zahi Khouri, and he's the exclusive franchisee for Coca Cola in the 'West Bank' and Gaza. Khouri seems to think he can garner more business by issuing calls to boycott Israel (NOTE to those who still don't get that the goal of BDS is to destroy Israel: He wants to boycott ALL OF ISRAEL). And Coca Cola is giving him a platform to do so. Ronn Torossian reports.
On Coca-Cola’s website, one can read of an award that was recently presented to Zahi Khouri, CEO of Coca-Cola Palestine, founder of the Palestinian National Beverage Company and exclusive holder of the Coca-Cola franchise in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The beverage conglomerate’s blog “invites Khouri to share his optimism, grit and reflection” with their global readers.
One wonders if his reflections represent Coca-Cola as a whole; for the Palestinian-American entrepreneur supports a boycott of Israel and urges sanctions against the Jewish State.
In November 2014, The Jerusalem Post reported that “Coca-Cola plans to build its first factory in Gaza,” noting the company had invested $25 Million into its Palestinian area business in the past five years, with Mr. Khouri as a partner. At the time, Mr. Khouri said all the right things, including this memorable soundbite: “The only enemy of extremism is good jobs.” A deeper look at Mr. Khouri’s rhetoric, however, reveals an executive more in line with Gaza hardliners than has been portrayed in the press.
Perhaps at the time Coca-Cola was unaware of Mr. Khouri’s September 2014 op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel in which their partner & regional CEO noted that the “non-violent efforts of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) advocates make sense as a means to force Israel to recognize that the occupation is not cost-free.” Coca-Cola’s local partner suggested that “countries, like those in the European Union, could enforce their own laws against doing businesses with countries that violate human rights.”
Perhaps Mr. Khouri should re-read the Coca-Cola Code of Business Conduct for franchisees, which states, “because The Coca-Cola Company is incorporated in the United States, our employees around the world often are subject to U.S. laws.” In addition to it being morally wrong to boycott Israel, recent amendments by the U.S. House and Senate require U.S. trade negotiators to “discourage politically motivated actions” by foreign countries and international organizations that aim to “penalize or otherwise limit” commercial relations with Israel or “persons doing business in Israel or in territories controlled by Israel.” A regional CEO threatening to boycott America’s staunchest Mid-East ally is cause for concern on many levels for Coca-Cola.
Yet, Mr. Khouri flouts these regulations, noting in the Washington insider publication The Hill that “this Congress is now legislating against the Palestinian nonviolent action of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) as a means to secure Palestinian freedom.” He then urges Jewish Voices for Peace, the anti-Zionist organization funded by George Soros, to assist him in lobbying efforts in Washington, DC. Does he also meet with Coca-Cola lobbyists while in our nation’s capitol?
When advocating in favor of BDS, Mr. Khouri is careful to identify himself not with Coca-Cola but as, for example, a “Palestinian-American businessman,” as he did in his bio line on The Hill or as “chairman of Orlando-based Intram Investments and chairman of the Palestinian Tourism Co. in Ramallah,” as reads his bio in the Sentinel. (Multiple emails and calls to Coca-Cola, Mr. Khouri, and Palestinian National Beverage Company requesting comment for this story were not returned. If any responds, this story will be updated to include their viewpoint.)
One group has responded. No, it's not Coca Cola. It's Nitzana Darshan-Leitner's Israel Law Center, which is threatening to sue Coca Cola if it doesn't sever ties with Khouri.
“This letter is a warning to the Coca-Cola Company that it should rescind its franchise agreement with the Palestinian National Beverage Company, headed by Zahi Khouri, who openly advocates for BDS against Israel,” said a letter from the Israel Law Center to Mr. Mukhtar Kent, CEO of Coca Cola.
In its letter Monday, the Israel Law Center’s Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and US attorney Robert Tolchin argued that calls for a boycott violate the Anti-Racism Convention, as well as various state and federal laws. It also represents a breach of Coca-Cola Company’s own Code of Business Conduct, it claimed. The company’s ethics code, which the law center said binds its foreign subsidiaries as well, states, “The Company also must abide by US anti-boycott laws that prohibit companies from participating in any international boycott not sanctioned by the US government.”
The BDS movement “is inherently racist, anti-Semitic, biased and prejudicial and has an extremist agenda that unfairly singles out Israel and Jews. The BDS movement’s goal is solely the destruction of the State of Israel and its Jewish community. It masquerades as a human rights movement, but it is singularly fixated on Israel and Jews and ignores egregious human rights abuses that do not feed its anti-Israel agenda,” the Israeli NGO representatives wrote.
No response yet from Coca Cola. 

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At 3:38 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Carl, I think this go's way deeper & Further - See: Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent (his father, Necdet Kent, was the Turkish consul-gen). http://www.mfs-theothernews.com/2014/07/coca-cola-helping-to-sweep-armenian.html …


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