The Electronic Intifada / March 14, 2022
Over the weekend, the hashtag #boycottcarrefour trended on social media in France.
This was prompted by reports that the retail giant had decided to withdraw Russian products from its stores to protest the invasion of Ukraine.
One photo circulating widely on Twitter apparently shows a sign at a Carrefour branch in Nice. It reads, “Dear customers, following current events, all Russian products have been withdrawn from our shelves in support of Ukraine.”
There are also reports that Carrefour stores in Poland have stopped selling Russian goods.
Many social media users expressed anger at Carrefour, because for years supporters of Palestinian rights have been campaigning for the retailer to stop selling Israeli goods, including products from settlements in the occupied West Bank.
A number of activists in France were even criminally prosecuted for demanding a boycott of Israeli goods, on the basis that such calls were racist.
In 2020, the European Court of Human Rights overturned the convictions of 11 activists who had protested in Carrefour stores calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. The judges ruled unanimously that the convictions violated the activists’ political rights and freedom of expression.
This comes amid a frenzy to shun everything Russian that goes far beyond the kind of targeted boycotts of Israeli goods and complicit institutions that Palestinians have been urging for years.
Supplying the Israeli army
Yet amid the focus on the war in Ukraine, Carrefour did make an announcement last week that has flown under the radar.
Carrefour operates thousands of supermarkets and convenience stores around the world – though until now not in Israel.
That will change, as the retailing giant is entering a partnership with the Israeli company Electra Consumer Products and the supermarket chain it owns, Yenot Bitan.
“This Partnership will see the Carrefour banners set in Israel before year end 2022 and will allow all Yenot Bitan stores, more than 150 to date, to have access to Carrefour-branded products before the summer,” Carrefour stated.
Under the agreement, Carrefour will also open “franchised stores” in Israel.
This means that Carrefour will be teaming up with companies that are directly complicit in Israel’s occupation and settler-colonization of the West Bank – war crimes.
A screenshot from the website of Israeli supermarket chain Yenot Bitan shows the location of one it its stores in Ariel, a settlement in the north of the occupied West Bank.
Based on Carrefour’s announcements, the French firm will therefore profit from selling its goods inside settlements before the end of this year.
Yenot Bitan’s owner Electra Consumer Products is part of a family of firms using the Electra brand name in Israel. They share the same parent company, ELCO.
Electra brands are deeply involved in Israel’s colonization of occupied Palestinian land.
Electra Consumer Products has “installed air conditioners in public buildings in the settlements of Modi’in Illit, Ma’aleh Adumim and Givat Ze’ev in the West Bank,” according to Who Profits, a group that monitors corporate complicity in Israeli colonization.
Various other Electra companies are even more involved in construction of settlements and their infrastructure and helping the Israeli military.
One subsidiary, FK Electra, for example, provided generators to at least one Israeli checkpoint in the occupied West Bank, and “supplied generators to the Israeli army during Israel’s 2014 military assault on Gaza,” Who Profits states.
As a consequence, Electra is listed in the UN database of firms involved in settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
France, like other European Union members, claims to oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and deems Israeli colonies there to be illegal.
The French government even warns: “Financial transactions, investments, purchasing, provisioning and other economic activities in the settlements or benefiting the settlements, entail legal and economic risks tied to the fact that according to international law the Israeli colonies are built on occupied territories and are not recognized as part of the territory of Israel.”
Carrefour will at the very least be supplying the settlements and profiting from them when its branded goods arrive in Yenot Bitan’s settlement stores.
That a major international firm like Carrefour would make the choice not just to partner with settlement profiteers but to do any business at all in an apartheid state is an indicator of the impunity Israel and its accomplices enjoy.
Indeed, led by France, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, European states are looking for even more “opportunities for cooperation” with Israel.
Given this context, Carrefour’s bosses surely know that whatever the French government or EU say about settlements is just lip service.
As so-called Russian oligarchs are stripped of assets on the merest suspicion of ties to President Vladimir Putin, French oligarchs can openly revel in their profitable partnerships with those involved in war crimes against Palestinians.
But time will tell if Carrefour’s celebrations are justified.
Thanks to the efforts of Palestine solidarity activists around the world, other major French firms, notably Orange and Veolia, have in recent years been forced to end their complicity with Israel’s crimes.
Campaigners will surely take note of Carrefour’s decision to profit from Israeli colonization and apartheid.
Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine (Haymarket Books)