Historically, Marks & Spencer has made statements in support of Zionism. Lord Sieff, chairman and founder of M&S who died in 2001, made several statements in support of Israel’s military policies. In 1941, Sieff said that "large sections of the Arab population of Palestine should be transplanted to Iraq and other Middle-Eastern Arab States" (Jewish Chronicle, 21/09/1941). In 1990, Sieff, in a book entitled On Management: The Marks and Spencer Way, wrote that one of the fundamental objectives of M&S was to "aid the economic development of Israel."
There have been no reports of M&S openly showing ideological support for Israel since 2004. The retail company has repeatedly asserted that "[it has] no 'special' relationship with any government, political party or religious group" but accepts that M&S does "make representations to governments in support of [its] commercial aims." M&S management has not, to our knowledge, commented on Lord Sieff's remarks in support of Zionism and has not made a statement as to whether the current management stands by them.
In 1998, Sir Richard Greenbury, then CEO of Marks & Spencer, received the Jubilee Award from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. In 2000, the Jerusalem Report stated that "M&S supports Israel with $233 million in trade each year."
In October 2000, the Jewish Chronicle reported that the British-Israel Chamber of Commerce (B-ICC) had held meetings at Marks & Spencer's offices in Baker Street. However, in 2008 the store claimed that M&S "do not host meetings on our premises for the B-ICC." Nevertheless, in December 2004, Stuart Rose, CEO of Marks and Spencer at the time, was a listed speaker at the annual dinner of the B-ICC.
When questioned in correspondence about the sale of Israeli goods in M&S stores in 2008, an M&S spokesperson said that the company buys "from Israel as… from 70 other countries…" and went on to state that the company would continue to do so. The letter continued to say that, "[w]e always put the country of origin on the products we sell. Where we buy Israeli products we label them as products of Israel."
M&S stocks Israeli grapes, lychees, figs, plums, dates, fresh herbs, sweet potatoes, potatoes (Maris Piper, Desiree, Jacket, Marfona, and King Edward). Many of these products are imported through Carmel-Agrexco, a company part-owned by the Israeli state.