Recently an advisory was sent to one of the writers for “Current Viewpoint” from the Friends of al-Aqsa, a group based in Great Britain whose purpose is to promote the Palestinian cause. The advisory announces with considerable fanfare that the charity Oxfam has terminated its relations with Starbucks.
Explaining that the Islamic Human Rights Commission and Innovative Minds (a group supported by Friends of al Aqsa), the Palestinian Return Centre, the Muslim Association of Britain and the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign have been in meetings with Oxfam, it emerges that the campaign’s target is “pro-Zionist multinational chain Starbucks.” That is news to us. So, all those Frappuccinos we have been guzzling here at Current Viewpoint are in some way supporting rampaging settlers and angry rabbis?
The document from Friends of al Aqsa says the organisations listed above had expressed their concerns to Oxfam regarding its one-year contract with Starbucks. According to the narrative, Starbucks had agreed to contribute ‘100,000’ (a currency is not specified) to Oxfam’s rural development programme in the East Harare coffee growing region of Ethiopia. We are instructed at this stage of the document to read background material.
Then it all begins to take shape: the al Aqsa paper states that Starbucks chair Howard Schultz is a pro-Zionist activist who helps ‘student projects in North America and Israel give presentations on the Israeli perspective of the Intifada.’ We are told that Starbucks has been a sponsor of bowl4israel and supports occupation troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thanks are then proffered to the pressure groups and supporters who had petitioned Oxfam to cease its relationship with Starbucks, stressing that the petitioners ('those struggling for justice') had been instrumental in ensuring that Oxfam adhered to humanitarian values.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission asks campaigners to contact Barbara Stocking of Oxfam to express gratitude for their action and to express support for a victory for common sense.
Jewish people, like those who run ORT, send considerable sums of money to the Third World. Jewish World ORT supports needy projects in Muslim and Christian countries. Golda Meir worked tirelessly to aid African nations. The local synagogue to Current Viewpoint’s office gives large sums to non-Jewish charities and causes. It is in the Jewish tradition of 'tzedakah' to give to anyone in need. Israel was one of the first to jump to aid Muslim nations and peoples after the tsunami. Hundreds of synagogues across the Western world raised thousands for the tsunami victims.
The al Aqsa document offends Jews who support pro-Palestinian causes because by attacking Howard Schultz it attacks every Jew who gives tzedakah to his or her chosen cause. Oxfam is a registered charity and should not be taking political sides. Little kids in Israel are devising computer programmes, not blowing people up.
For every Howard Schultz there are a thousand ill-informed Imams inculcating innocent Muslim children with hatred of the West. Schultz sends youngsters to learn worthy skills and to get fresh air in Israel, which is their right as Jews, as is the right of a Christian sponsor of trips to the Holy Land.
When we hold symphony concerts or opera evenings to raise funds for Palestine, are the al Aqsa groups going to boycott it because many of the musicians are Jews?
When are these groups going to reach out for peace as Sharon has done and stop condemning everything Jews do to help their own people? There are 55 Muslim nations -- let the Jews support their own if they so desire. Whilst Mr Schultz is supporting seminars for young people in North America to understand the effects of the Intifada on the survival of the tiny, sole Jewish State, he is also donating assistance to the Third World.
Those who attended a one-day Friends of al Aqsa conference at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London last year would have witnessed the spine-chilling and often irrational hostility to the concept of Jewish Statehood fifty-six years after the establishment of Israel. From the speeches offered at the conference, most particularly that from Dr Izzam al Tamimi, the agenda of this group appears to be the dismantling of any vestige of a sovereign Jewish entity in the region. One speaker even suggested that John Kerry was a dangerous Zionist and that the huge majority of Jewish Democrats supported Zionist causes.
Whether Starbucks gives 100,000 coffee beans or dollars to Ethiopia is, we believe, irrelevant; Jews giving charity are not wanted by anti-Israel pressure groups, and even if a well-meaning Hadassah officer offered a large sum to the Third World, a paper would appear on the Web exposing her as a ‘rabid Zionist’ because she also gives to WIZO. (At this moment WIZO is sponsoring soup kitchens in Israel for the hundreds of citizens who have ended up in poverty as a result of the al Aqsa Intifadah.)
Campaigns like those promulgated by the British al-Aqsa group are retrogressive and counter-productive. When a Muslim company can produce as dynamic a coffee empire as Starbucks, or as clever a fresh food franchise as Marvellous Markets, and then give money and aid to all manner of men and women, I will applaud them. Yes, the agenda of this advisory is ‘Sharon is killing our children whilst Starbucks cultivates Zionist youth in America,’ but the spirit of the world at this moment in time is the earthquake of freedom movements emerging in the Middle East and we urge the al Aqsa Friends to enter that spirit, not boycott those incomparable Frappuccinos which we at Current Viewpoint fully intend continuing to buy with great passion in perpetuity.