Boycott threat doesn’t scare British store

LONDON, Dec. 13 (JTA) – A British department store chain is vowing not to be swayed by Muslim calls to boycott the company because it does business with Israel.

“We are a global player and we support many countries, including Israel,” a Marks & Spencer spokeswoman told JTA.

“We have a history and a background with Israel that we are very proud of,” Cheryl Kuczynski said.

Two groups, the Islamic Human Rights Commission and Action Alert, staged small protests outside two of the chain’s stores recently. The groups plan to continue picketing every Saturday, a commission spokesman said.

Nafeez Ahmed described the protests as “an example to other companies that are doing business with Israel.”

The IHRC has over 2,000 members in the United Kingdom. Action Alert is a loose, new group of activists who work mostly via the Internet.

The protests to date have been very small, Kuczynski said.

“We were anticipating protests at six stores last weekend and only had two,” including at the chain’s flagship store at London’s Marble Arch, Kuczynski said.

But Ahmed said the protests had “only just started.”

The protesters passed out leaflets saying “M&S Supports Israel. Boycott M&S.”

A spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in London said the protests were not constructive.

“You cannot resolve issues or promote peaceful understanding or enhance Palestinian welfare through boycotts,” D.J. Schneeweis said.

The Israeli ambassador to England recently honored Marks & Spencer for the company’s continued support of Israel.

The clothier bought about $325 million worth of merchandise from Israel last year. That figure includes products produced in Jordan and exported via Israel, Kuczynski pointed out.

Marks & Spencer, probably the U.K.’s most venerable mid-range department store, was founded in 1884 by Russian Jewish refugee Michael Marks.

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