Tesco criticised for Israeli goods boycott hotline

* Rachel Williams
* The Guardian, Friday 10 April 2009

Tesco has come under fire from the pro-Israel lobby after setting up a customer helpline option for people to complain about it stocking Israeli products.

A recorded message told callers ringing its general customer services number: “If you are ringing regarding Israeli goods, please press one.”

The supermarket said it set up the line, which is no longer available, in anticipation of a high level of calls after the Palestine Solidarity Campaign called for a boycott of Israeli goods and urged its supporters to phone Tesco and Waitrose on 30 March about their stance on selling Israeli and Israeli settlement produce. Tesco insisted it had not meant to cause offence and said it apologised if any had been taken.

Anyone choosing the option, which was designed so customers with other queries would not find the line clogged, would have been put through to specially briefed call centre staff, the chain said.

Jonathan Hoffman, the Zionist Federation co-vice-chair, said Israel had been made a scapegoat, the Jewish Chronicle reported. “The risk is that supermarkets will say it’s too much of a problem to stock Israeli goods,” he told the newspaper.

A Tesco spokesman said: “We were made aware that a campaign group had asked supporters of its specific cause to call supermarkets. In order that any caller could be directed to an appropriate customer services operator, a call option was added to the usual menu.

“Our only aim was to be helpful, and if we have caused anybody offence unintentionally, we apologise.”

He added: “It was not making any political point. There are no plans for Tesco to boycott Israeli goods.”

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