The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) condemns the Coca-Cola Company for continuing to engage in immoral behavior and refusing to rectify the wrong it has been perpetrating against a Jewish family, the Bigios. The ZOA calls on the public to boycott Coca-Cola products, and for Jewish members of the public to boycott the companys kosher-for-Passover products during this Passover holiday.
The Bigios owned property near Cairo, Egypt since the early 1900s; Coca-Cola had been leasing the property and contracting with the Bigios, until the property was illegally taken from the family by the Egyptian government in 1964 during a campaign of anti-Semitism. In 1979, the Egyptian government ordered that the Bigios property be returned to them, but the Egyptian courts refused to enforce the order. In 1994, Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Egypt “purchased” the property when it was “privatized.” When the Bigios contacted Coca-Cola to remind the company of the familys right to the property and requested to be justly compensated, top Coca-Cola officials cavalierly brushed the family aside.
The Bigios brought a federal court action against Coca-Cola in 1997. Since then, Coca-Colas lawyers have used numerous legal maneuvers to avoid reaching the merits of the Bigios case. All of their procedural objections have failed twice in the U.S. Court of Appeals and once in the U.S. Supreme Court.
The ZOA has actively supported the Bigios claim for fairness and justice. The ZOAs Center for Law and Justice (ZOA-CLJ), under the direction of Susan Tuchman, Esq., submitted an amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) brief to the Court of Appeals in support of the Bigios. In 2007, the ZOA called for a boycott of Coca-Cola products and then in 2008, held a protest outside Coca-Colas annual shareholders meeting in Wilmington, Delaware.
Coca-Cola finally agreed to mediate its dispute with the Bigios. The mediation, which the Bigios were required to fund in part, concluded in March 2009, without a settlement. Indeed, Coca-Cola never offered any money to the Bigio family in settlement of the case during the mediation.
Nathan Lewin, Esq., the Bigios lawyer and a member of the ZOA-CLJs board of advisors, commented, “Coca-Cola did not mediate in good faith. Over the entire mediation, Coca-Cola never proposed any offer of settlement whatsoever, while the Bigios, in an effort to settle, made several offers, including one that was far below the current market value of the property.
“This company has acted despicably and members of the public should hold the company accountable. Coca-Cola is conducting its annual shareholders meeting in Georgia on April 22, 2009, and the company should get the message that the public wont tolerate its unconscionable behavior. The company relies on its Jewish customers to buy Coca-Colas kosher-for-Passover products. The Jewish public should boycott Coca-Cola products until Coca-Cola acts fairly and ethically and rights the wrong against the Bigios.”
Morton A. Klein, the ZOAs National President, echoed Mr. Lewins sentiments:
“Coca-Cola may have a rabbinic hechsher for Passover. But it cannot get a hechsher for its immoral and unethical behavior. Coca-Cola has avoided treating the Bigios justly for too long already.
“The company must finally stop participating in and benefitting from anti-Semitism. We urge the Jewish public not to buy Coca-Cola products for Passover, and all decent and fair-minded people should boycott Coca-Cola products until the company finally does the right thing and compensates the Bigios for their loss.”
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The Zionist Organization of America, founded in 1897, is the oldest pro-Israel organization in the United States. The ZOA works to strengthen U.S.-Israel relations, educates the American public and Congress about the dangers that Israel faces, and combats anti-Israel bias in the media and on college campuses. Its past presidents have included Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and Rabbi Dr. Abba Hillel Silver.