On July 29, conservative blogger Debbie Schlussel posted that she had “received many reports from Whole Foods customers that Israeli olive oil and other products had been removed from the shelves of many Whole Foods.” This was not her first tussle with the grocery chain; in April 2009 she blogged that the revenue from a Palestinian olive oil carried at Whole Foods stores supported terrorist causes.
A spokesperson for Whole Foods unequivocally denied the rumor on Thursday afternoon. Libba Letton explained to the Jewish Journal, “We have products from Israel; we have tons of kosher products.” Specifically, Letton alleges that Whole Foods vends Israeli brands like Aviv, Yehuda, and Avvio. Because of the rumors, the customer service team has fielded “at least a couple hundred” phone calls from Jews and non-Jews assessing the truth of the matter.
Schlussel counters that her claim is completely true. Soliciting feedback from readers, along with her own observations of local Detroit Whole Foods locations, Schlussel believes that the chain is strategically removing popular Israeli products, including olive oil, from shelves.
“It’s not just a political statement. It’s pandering to a group of people who they think will be their future customers, which is Muslims,” Schlussel said to the Jewish Journal. “And they know that the type of Jews who shop at Whole Foods are liberal and have no principals. They don’t care about Israel … I’m probably one of the few Jews who stopped shopping there.”
Letton volleys back, explaining that stores will pull a product if it’s not selling well. She identifies this as a possible explanation for the trends Schlussel is seeing. In fact, Whole Foods buyers were on a sourcing trip to Israel during the same period that the boycott rumors began circulating.
The Anti-Defamation League has stepped in to mediate the debate. National Director Abraham Foxmann released a statement on August 26 in support of Whole Foods.
“Whole Foods Market has made it unequivocally clear that it has not and will not engage in boycotts against the state of Israel,” Foxman explained. “In fact, they continue to carry a number of Israeli products, and have assured us that they do so with pride.”