PureGym CEO's Pro-Israel Remarks Spark Backlash, Calls for Boycott

PureGym CEO Humphrey Cobbold sparks outrage by expressing support for Israel's right to defend itself on Question Time. The backlash leads to a #BoycottPureGym movement, with thousands vowing to cancel their memberships.

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Muthana Al-Najjar
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PureGym CEO's Pro-Israel Remarks Spark Backlash, Calls for Boycott

PureGym CEO's Pro-Israel Remarks Spark Backlash, Calls for Boycott

Humphrey Cobbold, CEO of PureGym, has sparked outrage and calls for a boycott of the UK's largest gym chain after expressing support for Israel's right to defend itself on Question Time. Cobbold's remarks, which included stating that he saw no reason why defensive weapons like those for Israel's Iron Dome "shouldn't be allowed to go through," have gone viral on social media, with the hashtag #BoycottPureGym trending and nearly 10,000 users on X (formerly Twitter) vowing to cancel their memberships.

Why this matters: The controversy highlights the growing divide in public opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with business leaders and individuals facing increasing pressure to take a stance. As the boycott movement gains momentum, it raises questions about the role of corporate leaders in shaping public discourse and the potential economic consequences of taking a political stance.

On the May 10, 2024 episode of Question Time, Cobbold expressed concern about the situation in Gaza, where over 34,000 people have been killed in Israel's bombardment. However, he emphasized the need to remember the "original cause" of Israel's attack, citing Hamas as a "prescribed terrorist organisation" that aims to "eradicate Jews and eradicate Israel." Cobbold stated, "I think we should support, in general, the Israeli government in being able to defend themselves."

The backlash against Cobbold's comments was swift, with prominent figures like Dilly Hussain, deputy editor of 5Pillars, and Roshan M Salih, editor of 5Pillars, leading the charge. Salih tweeted, "Anyone with a Pure Gym membership, you know what to do. #BoycottPureGym" Many PureGym customers have shared images of their cancelled memberships on social media, with one user writing, "A slight inconvenience having to find a new gym after two years but well worth it if it means not supporting a company like this #PureGym #BoycottPureGym"

The controversy comes as the UK government faces pressure to halt arms sales to Israel amid plans from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to invade Rafah. While the US has threatened to halt arms supplies to Israel, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has played down the prospect of Britain following suit. Cobbold's remarks have further fueled the debate, with critics accusing him of supporting Israel's actions despite the high civilian death toll in Gaza.

As of May 11, 2024, the #BoycottPureGym movement shows no signs of slowing down, with thousands of users continuing to express their outrage and call for a boycott of the gym chain. PureGym, which boasts over 1 million members across the UK, has yet to issue an official response to the controversy surrounding its CEO's remarks.