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Starbucks distancing itself from Israel?
A widely circulated recent email from Starbucks the company internationally known for selling coffee says it does not support Israel, but opponents are calling that line a blatant deception.
Starbucks was distancing itself from an email supposedly written by Chairman Howard Schultz, but later proven to be a hoax that said in part, "Without you, my valued customer, I wouldn't be able to raise hundreds of millions of dollars each year to support Israeli citizens from terrorist attacks and keep reminding every Jew in America, to defend Israel at any cost.
"Five billion dollars per year from the U.S. government are no way near enough to pay for all the weaponry, bulldozers and security fences needed to protect innocent Israeli citizens from anti-Semitic Muslim terrorism. Corporate sponsorships are essential."
Starbucks responded swiftly by saying in part, "You may have heard a rumor or seen a web posting linking Howard Schultz and Starbucks with the Israeli Armed Forces. These allegations are false. Starbucks customers are people of diverse ethnic, income and age groups. Our primary focus is delivering the best customer experience. Starbucks is a non-political organization and does not support political causes."
The editor of Ziopedia.com, Andrew Winkler, said that he had written the first email himself, intended to be satire. Ziopedia.com is a Sydney-based blog that is vocal in its opposition to Zionism, calling it a "racist" ideology.
But Winkler added, "All the statements I made in that letter about donations, sponsorships, political views, etc. are based on factual Howard Schultz actions and quotes, as half an hour of 'Googling' will easily confirm to anyone interested."
Opponents of Starbucks who perceive the company as being supportive of Israeli "state terror" as well as exploiting poor farmers in developing countries say it's only because of successful boycotts that the corporation is changing its tune.
Certainly Starbucks seems to have realized that proudly promoting on its web page Israeli awards given to employees, as it once did, no longer makes for good business.
Schultz was presented with the "Israel 50th Anniversary Friend of Zion Tribute Award" by the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah on August 27, 1998, an award that was displayed on Starbucks' web page as late as 2001.
Aish HaTorah is an Orthodox Jewish outreach organization controversial with those against the Israeli lobby for running "Honest Reporting." "HonestReporting" claims on its website to be, "An organization dedicated to defending Israel against prejudice in the media; we aim to provide educational tools and resources to anyone wishing to advocate for Israel.
"Our materials provide people with information that is helpful when responding to the media, in their dealings on campus or in the work place, and in any other sphere where having credible, considered background material is of value."
Even though it was controversial to those against the Israeli lobby, Schultz's award was displayed on Starbucks' page (www.starbucks.com/aboutus/recognition.asp) as late as 2001. Following boycott efforts from around the world, mention of Schulz' award was erased, but the page can still be viewed as it once was at (http://www.web.archive.org/web/20010...?cookie_test=1).
Receiving the Aish HaTorah Award isn't the only time Schultz's work for Israel has drawn ire towards Starbucks. In 2002, the Starbucks chairman gave a speech at a Seattle synagogue supporting the occupation of the Palestinian territories, noting, "The Palestinians aren't doing their job; they're not stopping terrorism." At the time, Starbucks both defended the chairman's comments as well as distanced itself from him. Activists received one of two replies when complaining to the company. One letter said, "Howard Schultz recently spoke at his local synagogue and shared his concern over the rise of anti-Semitism, which is linked to the growing crisis in the Middle East.
"Howard's position is pro-peace and for two nations to co-exist peacefully. His comments were not intended to be anti-Palestinian in any way. As part of his comments, Howard addressed the rising concern over terrorist acts overseas, specifically relating to the bombing of a synagogue in France.
"Howard does not believe the terrorism is representative of the Palestinian people. Howard was speaking as a private citizen and did not interview with the media regarding this subject, however several local media outlets did run portions of his speech."
The second letter said, "We are aware that our chairman, Howard Schultz, recently spoke at a private gathering and commented on the current Middle East situation. However, we are unable to comment on his speech as he was speaking as a private citizen."
Earlier this week, "The Arab American News" contacted Starbucks' Customer Relations Department at the number provided in the most recent email for the company's side of the story.
The representative who spoke with this reporter didn't know about the recent letter but said, "Starbucks does not support the state of Israel." When confronted with the evidnce of Starbucks displaying the Israeli award, she put this reporter on hold. Returning, she refused to speak further but forwarded all inquiries to Starbucks' Media Relations office.
A message was left on the office's answering machine, explaining the nature of the story and requesting Starbucks' side of the story. The call was not returned as of deadline.
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