July 24, 2015
In a recent exchange of letters with the Anti-Defamation League, The Coca-Cola Company made clear that it has long been a proud supporter of Israel and has never supported the use of boycotts against any country. Coca-Cola was reacting to ADL’s concerns that some were attempting to link the company to highly charged and divisive anti-Israel remarks made by Zahi Khouri, the head of the Palestinian National Beverage Co., which is licensed by the Company to distribute its products across Gaza and the West Bank.
In a letter to ADL, Coca-Cola makes it clear that the global beverage company “does not support, endorse or sanction the BDS movement” against Israel and that the company is proud to provide economic opportunity and support livelihoods in both Israeli and the Palestinian communities.
The full exchange of letters follows below.
ADL Letter to Coca-Cola
July 10, 2015
Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
The Coca-Cola Company
1 Coca Cola Plz NW
Atlanta, GA 30313
Dear Mr. Kent:
We have become aware of an effort by some elements among pro-Israel groups to link Coca Cola with the highly charged and divisive anti-Israel positions espoused by Mr. Zahi Khouri, the head of the Palestinian National Beverage Company which is licensed by Coca Cola to distribute your products across Gaza and the West Bank.
It is well known that Coca Cola proudly sells its products across Israel and has done so for decades. We also know there is no reason to believe Coca Cola engages in, encourages or supports any type of BDS or other anti-Israel activity.
Mr. Khouri is a vocal and very public supporter of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, a global effort to isolate and impose economic punishment on Israel because of its policies towards the Palestinians. While supporters of the BDS movement claim to embrace the tactic as a nonviolent way to pressure Israel into negotiations, the campaign is clearly a biased effort to demonize and place the entire onus of the conflict on Israel.
During the past few years, Mr. Khouri has penned op-eds defending BDS activities, including one published in The Hill in May of this year denouncing U.S. legislation aimed at combating BDS, and another in the Orlando Sentinel in 2014 stating “the nonviolent efforts of BDS advocates make sense as a means to force Israel to recognize that the occupation is not cost free.”
The absence to date of a clear public statement distancing your company from Mr. Khouri’s support for BDS has provided an opening for some fringe pro-Israel advocates to promote the idea Coca Cola’s silence implies tacit approval of Mr. Khouri’s odious ideas.
In these circumstances, we urge you to find a way to publicly distance Coca-Cola from Mr. Khouri’s support for BDS. We highly value the longstanding relationship between Coca-Cola and ADL in Atlanta. If you believe the approach we suggest would be helpful, ADL is prepared to work with you to set the record straight.
Abraham H. Foxman
Response from Coca-Cola
July 20, 2015
Mr. Abraham Foxman
605 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10158-3560
Dear Mr. Foxman:
Thank you for your letter of July 10 to Muhtar Kent to which he has asked me to respond.
Since 1968 when local production began, The Coca-Cola Company has been proud that its products have been refreshing Israeli consumers and communities. Today, the Coca-Cola system has two Israeli production facilities and 400 direct Israeli employees which serve more than 20,000 Israeli outlets on a weekly basis. Indeed, Israel is one of the most vibrant and innovative countries anywhere around the world, and we tap into Israel’s start-up environment and know-how to support other entrepreneurs and businesses through “The Bridge” program. Furthermore, The Coca-Cola Company knows that for its business to be successful over the long-term, the local communities in which it operates must be sustainable, which is why we are proud partners with the Special Olympics in Israel and have been a leader in driving beverage package recycling as well as Israeli consumer awareness of recycling.
At The Coca-Cola Company, we do not support any political or religious causes. As a beverage company and together with local bottling partners, we manufacture and distribute our beverages in communities in more than 200 markets throughout the world, including in both Israeli and Palestinian communities. We believe Coca-Cola is one of the world’s most inclusive brands, and we have no preference for, nor do we favor any individual country or religious cause. Like everyone of good will, we want to see peace in the Middle East and everywhere else. However, we believe that the manner in which peace is best achieved is the responsibility of governments, not the private sector.
For decades The Coca-Cola Company has not supported the use of boycotts, including the Arab League Boycott of Israel, because the sales losses from a boycott hits the local community the hardest – from the small grocer who sells our products, to the local businesses that sell us ingredients or packaging, to the local employees who stock the store shelves and many more. Given the strong local supply and distribution network, studies in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe have found that for every direct job in the Coca-Cola system, a further 10 indirect jobs are created in the broader economy. So, a boycott affects many more workers along the value chain than people often realize.
To be clear, The Coca-Cola Company does not support, endorse or sanction the BDS movement. You have noted remarks made by Zahi Khouri, chairman of NBC, the Company's Palestinian authorized bottler, on this subject: these are his personal opinions and we reiterate that they neither reflect the views of The Coca-Cola Company nor are they tacitly or otherwise supported by the Company.
Given our local supply and distribution system, the activity that the Coca-Cola system generates provides economic opportunity and supports livelihoods in both Israeli and Palestinian communities. And, we are proud that since 1998, our local Palestinian bottler has been producing a full portfolio of Coca-Cola beverages to refresh Palestinian consumers and communities.
Thank you for your personal engagement. We greatly value the ADL’s long-standing partnership with The Coca-Cola Company.
Curtis A. Ferguson
President, Middle East & North Africa Business Unit