(Coca-Cola Publicity Materials)
Zahi Khouri, coca cola

Following calls by Coca-Cola Palestine to boycott the Jewish state, the Israel Law Center is pushing the international beverage company to drop its Palestinian franchise.

Zahi Khouri, CEO of Coca-Cola Palestine, has called for a boycott on Israel in several recent interviews in American newspapers. In response, the Tel Aviv-based Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, a leading Israeli activist NGO, is calling on the international beverage company to drop its Palestinian subsidiary.

In a September 2014 op-ed in the Orlando Sentinel, Khouri wrote that “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.” He further suggested that “countries, like those in the European Union, could enforce their own laws against doing businesses with countries that violate human rights.” He expressed similar views in the Hill, the Huffington Post and other publications.

Shurat HaDin, which represents terror victims and combats efforts to delegitimize Israel, has had numerous successes. In February, for instance, it represented 10 families who took the Palestinian Authority (PA) to a federal court in Manhattan for inciting, planning and carrying out six terror attacks that killed American citizens in Israel between 2002 and 2004. In a landmark decision, the PA and the Palestine Liberation Organization were found liable by an American jury. A sum of $218.5 million in damages was awarded to the victims, and according to applicable anti-terrorism laws, this amount will likely be tripled to a whopping sum of over $655 million.

Nitsana Darshan Leitner, founder of the legal-rights organization, and Robert Tolchin, the NGO’s US counsel, penned a letter to Muhtar Kent, CEO of Coca-Cola, over Khouri’s statements.

“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 [boycotts] against Israel,” she warned in the correspondence, which was released on Monday. “The Coca-Cola Company should not affiliate itself with any person or entity calling for a boycott or similar effort against the Israeli government or the nation’s manufacturers, companies, products or services.”

Khouri expressed support for BDS, the anti-Israel Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, and criticized the US Congress for its anti-BDS legislation in his media interviews. “Khouri has also made patently false and incendiary statements accusing Israel of stealing Palestinian land and culture and comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa,” the letter delineates.

“We wish to put The Coca-Cola Company on notice that the BDS movement’s efforts are unlawful racial discrimination on the basis of national origin and/or race, creed and religion under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“Anti-Racism Convention”) and numerous U.S. state and federal statutes,” the Shurat HaDin attorneys wrote.

The NGO outlines four laws that Coca-Cola could be violating by continuing to employ Khouri. The letter also notes that Coca-Cola is breaking its own company’s bylaws by doing so.

“A boycott is not protected by the freedom-of-speech language of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because a boycott is not speech, it is action,” the letter clarifies.

“In light of the above, we urge The Coca-Cola Company to comply with US law and its own Code of Business Conduct and to rescind its franchise agreement with the Palestinian National Beverage Company headed by Zahi Khouri,” it concludes. “As the French telecom-services firm Orange recently made clear, The Coca-Cola Company should also make clear that it will not support any kind of boycott against Israel.”

A History of Anti-Israel Bias

On Coca-Cola’s website, one can read of an award recently presented to Khouri and about the Palestinian CEO’s “optimism, grit and reflection.”

“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,” Ronn Torossian, writing for the Observer, notes.

“With many finding the BDS movement both anti-Semitic and racist, it is difficult to imagine how any company can justify a top executive supporting a boycott of Israel,” Torossian adds.

Citing several comments by Khouri, the journalist states that he “invents facts to malign Israel, such as suggesting that Israel claims to have invented falafel, oranges, and hummus. Israel has done no such thing.” .

“While one can read countless articles containing Khouri’s political commentary, one will not find a word of criticism of the Palestinian Arabs. Not a word about the fact that Hamas—headquartered in Gaza where Coca-Cola has built its latest factory—is devoted to the destruction of the Jewish State. Not a word about Israel’s continued peace overtures, nor a word about Israel’s claims to their ancient homeland. He certainly never mentions that Coca-Cola Israel employs many Israeli Arabs, while Coca-Cola Palestine has not a single Israeli Jew employed,” Torossian points out.

“Coca-Cola must follow in the footsteps of Orange [Telecommunications] and distance itself from any talk of supporting a boycott or sanctions of Israel,” he suggests.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel