WASHINGTON, 4 August 2006 — It started out as an Internet parody of Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz thanking customers for supporting Starbucks and Israel.
The spoof read, in part: “I want to thank you for making Starbucks the $6.4 billion global company it is today… Every latte you drink at Starbucks is a contribution to the close alliance between the United States and Israel, in fact it is — as I was assured when being honored with the “Israel 50th Anniversary Friend of Zion Tribute Award” — key to Israel’s long-term PR success. Your daily frappucino helps pay for student projects in North America and Israel, presenting them with the badly needed Israeli perspective of the Intifada.”
This parody caught fire throughout the Middle East. But, was it true? And how much of Starbucks does Schultz own.?
On June 6, 2003, the Seattle Times wrote: “Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz cashed in $17.5 million in stock options and still owns about 4 percent of the company.”
A quick check on the Internet “Starbucks-Israel” didn’t reveal anything fishy. Starbucks Headquarters issued a statement last month denying the close alliance, called “Starbucks Rumor Response,” and dated July 21, 2006, it read: “Neither Chairman Howard Schultz nor Starbucks fund or support the Israeli Army. Starbucks is a non-political organization and does not support individual political causes.”
However, googling “Starbucks-Israeli settlements,” revealed a goldmine of information.
A Muslim website had the most extensive information about Starbucks CEO Schultz: http://www.inminds.co.uk/boycott-starbucks.html
On this website, it notes an award given to Schultz is no longer listed on the Starbucks website: “In 1998 he was honored by the Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah with ‘The Israel 50th Anniversary Friend of Zion Tribute Award’ for his services to the Zionist state in ‘playing a key role in promoting close alliance between the United States and Israel.”
The Jerusalem Fund of Aish HaTorah funds Israeli arms fairs…” The site adds that this listing was removed from Starbucks home page.”
The original page listing Howard Schultz Israel Award as an award for Starbucks can still be seen on their site.
The new page is shown below with no mention of the Israeli connection.”
Another search revealed that Robert Fisk, who is a contributing editor to Arab News, wrote about Schultz back on June 14, 2002. Fisk wrote that Starbucks “has been trying to damp down its pro-Israeli image, telling protesters who have written to the company that its chief executive, Howard Schultz, who is himself Jewish, does not believe that terrorism is representative of the Palestinian people.”
Fast forward to this summer. On July 22, 2006, the “Friends of Al-Aqsa and Peace in Palestine” wrote on problems between Oxfam and Starbucks on their website http://www.aqsa.org.uk/news—detail.aspx?newsid=700.
‘Friends’ notes that Oxfam ended a yearlong contract with Starbucks.
“Oxfam denied allegations that Muslim groups were behind its decision to terminate its collaboration with coffee conglomerate Starbucks.” ‘Friends’ also notes that Starbucks failed in Israel: “Starbucks …invested in Israel — a joint venture with Israeli conglomerate Delek Group for Starbucks outlets in Israel.”But the coffee company made heavy losses.
And in April 2003, it announced that all its 6 cafes in Israel will be shut down and that it has ended its partnership with Delek.” Josh Ruebner, Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, is adamant about boycotting Starbucks.
Attending a recent conference, Ruebner said he and his colleagues were “embarrassed and upset” when they were served Starbucks coffee. He wrote a letter to the organizers, saying: “many conference participants and conference organizers were highly disturbed by the serving of Starbucks coffee at our conference.
“Schultz has been praised by the Israeli government for sponsoring pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian seminars on college campuses (“Losing the Media Battle,” Jerusalem Report, April 22, 2002) and his company has sponsored a fund-raising event for the Israel Emergency Solidarity Fund, an organization which engages in crass anti-Palestinian propaganda to raise money to support the families of Israeli soldiers who have died while protecting Israel’s illegal military occupation of Palestinian territories.”
Reubner wrote: “Because the CEO of Starbucks is so supportive of Israel and the system of apartheid that it has foisted on the Palestinian people, we strongly urge you to reconsider your arrangement to serve Starbucks products”.
He added, “We all have an obligation to make sure that corporations with which we do business are using those profits to promote human rights, peace, and justice, rather than racial discrimination, military occupation, and colonization.”
Several interview requests by this reporter — made both by telephone and emails — to Starbucks corporate press office were never returned. All this gives one food for thought when sipping one’s next cappuccino.