There are plenty of American companies and dollars invested into Israel and the Palestinian territories, but an American organization called the Holy Land Principles has launched a new campaign to get Cisco and its subsidiaries to sign on to an agreement to follow the same kind of fair employment practices there that they would in America.
“It’s so American dollars do not subsidize discrimination,” said Father Sean McManus, president of the group.
The push to get Cisco to sign on is part of a larger effort made by McManus and the organization that began last year. The Holy Land Principles Inc. is in many ways a spiritual successor to the MacBride Principles, which successfully helped pressure companies in Northern Ireland to follow fair employment rules. The Holy Land Principles is an attempt to apply the same techniques in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
“Last August I was approached and asked if it was possible to have a similar campaign in Palestine and Israel,” McManus said.
After a trip to the region to see the conditions, the organization was incorporated and letters of appeal were sent to lawmakers and companies to have them sign on to the eight statements of principles.
“It’s essentially the MacBride Principles again,” McManus said. “It’s a very minimalistic approach.”
The appeals letters and McManus himself are quick to assert that what they are doing is different from the BDS-type movements that call for economic boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel. Instead of attempting to pressure people there to reach a solution to the disagreements, more than 500 American companies in the region are asked to follow the tenets of fair employment and treatment of employees.
There have been many responses from companies to the principles. Some signed on quickly. Others said they felt no need to sign on because they already followed the principles as part of their own corporate code of conduct. The group replies to such statements by noting that anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland only started to fade after companies signed the MacBride principles.
Not all the responses have even been that positive, however. “We’ve gotten three or four nasty letters,” McManus said.
He said that after the experience with the MacBride principles he is not giving up any time soon. “It took five year for most companies to sign the MacBride principles,” he said. Cisco has yet to respond but it is still early for the group, he explained.
In the long run, he believes the campaign could have the same kind of far-reaching consequences in the Middle East as it did in Britain and Ireland.
“I’d say do not underestimate the inherent power of these principles,” McManus said.
Holy Land Principles
1. Adhere to equal and fair employment practices in hiring, compensation, training, professional education, advancement and governance without discrimination based on national, racial, ethnic, or religious identity.
2. Identify underrepresented employee groups and initiate active recruitment efforts to increase the number of underrepresented employees to a level proportional to their representation in society.
3. Make every reasonable effort to ensure that all employees have the ability to easily, openly and equally travel to and access corporate facilities.
4. Maintain a work environment that is respectful of all racial, ethnic and religious groups.
5. Work … and support local initiatives to eliminate disparities among racial, ethnic and religious groups in government spending on education, training, access to health care and housing.
6. Not make military service a precondition or qualification for employment for any position, other than those positions that specifically require such experience, for the fulfillment of an employee’s particular responsibilities.
7. Not accept subsidies, tax incentives or other benefits that lead to the direct advantage of one racial, ethnic or religious group over another.
8. Appoint staff to monitor, oversee, set timetables, and publicly report on their progress in implementing the Holy Land Principles.
Information from the Holy Land Principles website (holylandprinciples.org)