On Friday, April 17th, a group of protesters from Manchester, York and Halifax Palestinian Solidarity groups gathered outside the Co-op headquarters in Balloon Street, Manchester. They were challenging the fact that the Co-op has decided not to grant banking facilities to Interpal, a Muslim charity the bona fides of which have been verified by the British Charities Commission.
The protesters, most of whom are Co-op account holders, felt this decision was morally questionable given the Co-op’s proud policy of ethical policy making. However, the official explanation for the decision, given in a letter by the Co-op’s Ethics Adviser, Lisa Dale, fuelled their determination to protest even more. The Ethics Adviser’s explanation was as follows:
“Our decision not to offer banking facilities to Interpal was based solely on the fact that Interpal are named on the sanctions list issued by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). ....If The Co-operative Bank agreed to provide banking services to Interpal we ourselves could be fined by the US Government for non-compliance with their sanctions regime.”
The protesters’ two key points are firstly that Interpal is a legitimate and respectable humanitarian organisation and should be allowed to function like other charities and secondly that British banking decisions should not be dictated by American policy.
The leaflets they handed out sought to draw these facts to people’s attention, especially people who choose to bank with the Co-op on the basis of its high reputation for ethical trading at all levels, a reputation they feel has been tarnished by this ban on Interpal.