EVERY LITTLE HELPS APARTHEID

Contributions by happysky, Salim and Carl. Thanks to Seymour for the video, as well as Alan and Dennis for the photos.

Since the campaign to get AHAVA out of Central London has been won thanks to continuing protests –  the landlord will not renew their lease when it comes up for renewal in September – campaigners spent one hour instead of the usual two on Monmouth Street.

John, our talented saxophonist, helped draw attention to the sale of stolen goods from stolen land and his music encouraged many passersby to take a flyer or postcard and talk to the approx thirty BDS campaigners who came to educate the public about the illegality of the occupation.

We were also joined by an Australian named Stuart who was holidaying in the UK. He was walking down Monmouth Street and decided to join us at Ahava and later outside TESCO.  Stuart said he was inspired to see such a large, energetic and diverse group of people campaigning for Palestinian rights and vowed to get more actively involved in BDS movement upon his return to Australia.

Another person joined us carrying an Israeli flag. The key point being that he had cut the Star of David out of the flag. It was a very powerful image that attracted a lot of attention.

An unusually subdued Jonathan Hoffman, Zionist Federation co-Vice Chair, was joined by fewer than ten Zionist counter-protesters that included the entire youth wing of StandWithUs UK. Speculation arose that due to Hoffman’s efforts in helping pro-Palestinian campaigners to get Ahava closed and his value to the UK Palestine solidarity movement, Hoffman may be forced to resign his position in the Zionist Federation.

We hope this isn’t true, as we look forward to Hoffman’s continuing service to us in future campaigns that include…

Today kicked off the start of this campaign targeting UK supermarket chain TESCO, whose famous catchphrase is ‘every little helps.’

Every Little Helps Apartheid is aimed at encouraging shoppers to ‘check the label’ and inform them why they should purchase neither Israeli nor West Bank settlement produce.

Carmel-Agrexco, one of the major exporters of Israeli and settlement produce to TESCO, was itself a target by BDS activists at its depot in Hayes, West London. Details of some of those actions can be found here and here. Agrexco was found to be complicit in violations of international law at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine held last November in London. They, like many Israeli companies, refuse to press charges against activists in fear of revealing their illegal and unethical practices in a public court of law.

Campaigners walked the five-minute journey from AHAVA on Monmouth Street to TESCO through Covent Garden, which was crowded with tourists, visitors and shoppers, carrying the Palestine Solidarity Campaign banner as well as Palestinian flags and PSC placards that attracted the attention and cheers of onlookers. Staff in a mobile phone shop recognised the Palestinian flags we were carrying, waved and shouted: “FREE PALESTINE!”

This is the same TESCO supermarket where activists de-shelved Israeli and illegal settlement produce during the BDS Day of Action on March 30th.

Covent Garden itself is a fantastic location and felt like a breath of fresh air. Tourists and residents often go there for a relaxed day out and had more time to listen and discuss the reasons for the boycott is Israeli and illegal settlement goods.

We then fanned out around the front of the supermarket and for the next hour successfully engaged with shoppers, distributed specially created flyers and explained about the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the oppression of Palestinians under Zionist occupation.

Outside Covent Garden TESCO during the BDS Day of Action - 30 March 2011

One campaigner reported having an in-depth discussion with three trendy young men about the spectre before them – TESCO, a giant orange, and the Palestinian, Welsh (belonging to a lone Welsh Christian Zionist) and Israeli flags. They were there for about five minutes rubbing their chins, laughing and trying to figure out what was going on. They took time to listen, nodded and agreed with the BDS campaign. The campaigner reported that never have so many flyers been distributed which must be an indication as to how much support we have!

A well-dressed woman approached us and asked if we were the same people who demonstrated outside Ahava on Monmouth Street.  When we acknowledged we were, she then commented on the hostility and defensiveness of the Zionists and expressed her support and approval for the BDS campaign.

The few Zionists who struggled to follow us were desperate to give away the few hastily bought, sorry-looking, Israeli-grown Jaffa blood oranges that they themselves didn’t scoff.

Not surprisingly, there were few takers.

Blood Orange

TESCO action in SWANSEA, Wales 

TESCO has long been a target of BDS activists. Here are other actions at TESCO supermarkets that have taken place throughout London:

30 March 2011 - TESCO Metro, Covent Garden, Central London (BDS Day of Action).

13 June 2010 - TESCO, Leytonstone, North East London (organised by Waltham Forest PSC/J-BIG).

5 June 2010 - TESCO Metro, Lower Regent St, Haymarket, Central London (held during the London Gaza flotilla demo).

21 June 2009 - TESCO, Shoreditch, East London.

14 June 2009 - TESCO, Old Kent Road, South East London.

17 May 2009 - TESCO, West Cromwell Road, Kensington, West London.

29 March 2009TESCO, Bethnal Green & Whitechapel, East London.

Finally, a briefing about the corporate complicity of TESCO, courtesy of Leeds PSC:

Tesco stores stock a large amount of produce grown in the Occupied Territories and purchased from the Israeli state, including fruit and vegetables from producer Carmel-Agrexco. Israeli products stocked by Tesco include fruit juice, mangoes, avocados, grapes, stonefruit, dates, herbs, pickled cucumbers, Exquisa potatoes, mixed peppers (from Israel and a second country of origin), Barkan wine, Yarden wine, biscuits, cold meat, dips, Osem soups and cakes, snacks by Beigel & Beigel, Telma (soup mixes and cubes, noodles etc) and socks (Tesco’s own brand).

Tesco sells products from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, many of which are exported by Carmel Agrexco. The company admitted sourcing ‘a number of products’ from illegal settlements, including avocados, herbs, grapes and stonefruit, such as peaches, from farms in the West Bank and Golan Heights. In 2006 War on Want reported that Tesco sells Beigel and Beigel products sourced from the settlements. Tesco also sells gas cylinders for products made by settlement company Soda Club, and repackages settlement dates from Hadiklaim as Tesco own brand dates. Mehadrin-Tnuport
Export Company (MTex) supplies Tesco with settlement citrus fruit and there are links between Tesco and the Arava settlement company.

In October 2007, a group of campaigners from the Brighton Tubas Friendship and Solidarity Group entered Tomer settlement in the occupied Jordan Valley and photographed medjoul dates, packaged by Carmel Agrexco, labelled ‘Made in Israel’ and marked as bound for Tesco stores.

Products exported as ‘Made in Israel’ benefit from the preferential trade terms of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, which came into effect in 2000. Settlement products, however, are excluded from the beneficial terms of the EU-IAA.

When ITN screened an expose in 2007 accusing supermarkets of misleading British consumers, Tesco admitted it had acted “in error” and stated that Israeli dates “originating solely in the West Bank will [in the future] be labelled as such.”

The Boycott Israeli Goods (BIG) Campaign and other groups have been campaigning against the ‘West Bank’ label as it misleads consumers into believing produce from illegal settlements is actually Palestinian. The Palestinian General Delegation to the UK has written a letter of protest to Tesco, and other retailers, for persisting in the use of this misleading label.

Tesco says that ‘freedom of choice’ is one of the company’s priorities and consumers can choose not to buy Israeli products. However, in correspondence with campaigners in 2006, Tesco representatives said they were phasing out Tesco’s line of Israeli peppers due to consumer pressure. Boycott Israeli Goods campaigners have also consistently attended the Tesco AGM to raise the issue of settlement produce and propose a boycott of Israeli goods.

John Porter, one of the principal shareholders in Tesco, also has substantial investments in Israeli companies. In 2000, Tesco awarded a $1 million IT contract to the Israeli firm Tescom to provide a solution for Tesco’s Year 2000 conversion requirements.

During the bombing of Gaza, Tesco was targeted across the country by campaigners calling for a boycott of Israeli goods. In Swansea, activists stole Israeli settlement produce from Tesco and sprayed it with red dye to highlight Tesco’s complicity in Israel’s war crimes by profiting from settlement produce and enabling the settlements to trade and profit from their illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

Contact Details:

TESCO Customer Services Contact Form

Email: customer.service@tesco.co.uk

Tesco PLC, New Tesco House, Delamare Road, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, England EN8 9SL

Telephone 0800 505 555*

*Monday to Saturday: 9am to 6pm

“My Name is Rachel Corrie” review

Sophie Angelson as Rachel Corrie

MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE
taken from the writings of Rachel Corrie
edited by Alan Rickman and Katharine Viner
directed by Scarlett Plouviez Comnas
designed by George Moustakas
starring Sophie Angelson as Rachel Corrie

On until 30 April at the Rosemary Branch Theatre and Pub, 2 Shepperton Road, London N1 3DT.

My Name Is Rachel Corrie is a powerful and eloquent piece of theatre documenting a young activist who was prepared to risk her life in protest.

In March 2003, whilst protesting against the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home, 23-year-old American student Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli Defence Force bulldozer.

Compiled entirely from her diary entries and emails, the performance offers a glimpse into the mind of this passionate and thoughtful woman.

Several people from London BDS attended the April 26th performance. Here’s a review by John C:

MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE

It is a tribute to Sophie Angelson’s acting ability, not withstanding Scarlett Plouviez Comnas’ direction, that she maintained my attention for 90 minutes despite the appalling seating of this otherwise charming mini theatre.

The play is almost totally written by or more accurately taken from the writings of Rachel’s diaries. It reveals and presents the too short life of a memorable modest caring and honest human being. It chronicles her life as a schoolgirl and student and later her brief and final existence in a Palestine dishonourably occupied by the theocratic Jewish State.

This is a very successful theatrical experience. I feel I have made a fleeting contact with another person as one does with a friend with all his or her quirkiness and foibles. Here Anne Frank comes to mind. I am not attempting to equate any equivalence in the content of their lives, but both women are revealed by their diaries and both will stand forever as witnesses to injustice and cruelty.

For more information on Rachel Corrie and the efforts to continue the work she began, please visit www.rachelcorriefoundation.org.

Statement from the Ahava 4

Looking in during the 2nd October lock-on.

On 2 October 2010 and 22 November 2010 a total of four activists locked themselves to blocks of concrete inside Ahava, a cosmetics store selling products from Mitzpe Shalem – an illegal Israeli settlement on occupied Palestinian land, successfully closing the shop for several hours. After being cut free, the activists were arrested for aggravated trespass.

At a three day hearing, between 21 – 23 March 2011, evidence was heard at Stratford Magistrates Court in London.

One month later on 21 April 2011, a verdict was announced by District Judge Ian Baker at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court. The four activists were convicted, received a conditional discharge and were ordered to pay costs of £250.00 each.

What follows is a statement released by the activists after the verdict was announced:

Statement from the Ahava 4

London, 21 April 2011

Although these proceedings have resulted in our convictions, no one should be in any doubt about the real criminality in this case. During the three-day hearing, we demonstrated that Ahava cosmetics are manufactured on stolen Palestinian land. Ahava’s trade is not only immoral, it is illegal. We believe that our action was lawful and justified.

Today’s judgement illustrates the complicity of the authorities in allowing companies to profit from the occupation. Throughout the trial, neither the Judge nor the prosecution challenged the assertion that the settlements are illegal in international law. Irrespective of today’s judgement, campaigners believe that they are still the victors.

As a result of the collective efforts of activists, Ahava’s flagship Covent Garden store will close this September. This demonstrates the efficacy of grassroots action in creating real and tangible change.

We call for mass participation in the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, building a movement that can directly challenge Israeli apartheid and occupation.

End of statement.

Video: NO WAY THROUGH – if Israel occupied London

Imagine if London was controlled by the military and you had to go through specific checkpoints to go to school, go to work, visit your friends or go to the hospital.

This award-winning seven minute video brings the shocking reality of Palestinian life in the West Bank uncomfortably close to home.

From Corporate Watch: AHAVA VICTORY

6 April 2011 – In a victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against apartheid Israel, Ahava, a multinational Israeli Dead Sea products company, will be forced to close its flagship store in Monmouth Street, central London.

Shaftesbury PLC, which owns the property said: “When Ahava’s lease
expires in September, we will not offer them a new one.” A director of Ahava,
Odelia Haroush, confirmed that Shaftesbury PLC’s decision was linked to the
ongoing protests.

Ahava manufactures its products at the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe
Shalem in the occupied West Bank. The settlements of Mitzpe Shalem and Kibbutz Kalia are shareholders in the company (see here).

A campaign was launched against Ahava’s Monmouth Street branch in 2008.
Protests have been held on a fortnightly basis outside the store since then. The
Zionist Federation have organised rowdy counter demonstrations and a ‘buy-cott’ in support of the store. The fascist English Defence League has joined the
pro-Ahava demonstrations. These demonstrations, and counter demonstrations, in the heart of central London have created a policing nightmare.

Colin George, manager of clothes shop The Loft, next door to Ahava, told
the Jewish Chronicle:

“I’m pleased Ahava is leaving. It’s brought the street  down. I’ve complained to the landlords, as has everyone here. Everyone would like them to leave. I wish they had left two years ago.”

Diversity of tactics

The campaign against Ahava has employed a diverse range of tactics to
close down the shop. Alongside the fortnightly demonstrations campaigners have complained to Camden Trading Standards over the labelling of Ahava produce as Israeli, contravening guidance from DEFRA and the Cosmetic Safety Regulations. An investigation of the store by Trading Standards is ongoing.

Complaints have been made to the police over the store’s sale of goods
which have fraudulently claimed the benefits of the EU-Israel Association
agreement by passing them off as Israeli when in fact they are manufactured in a
settlement. Representations about the store’s trading practices have been made
in Parliament and to HMRC.

Police complaints have been lodged accusing the store of offences under
the Proceeds of Crime Act. The store is financed by its Israeli counterpart
which has a factory on the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. Campaigners argued that trading from the settlements encourages the transfer of Israeli settlers into
occupied territory, in breach of the Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of
the International Criminal Court.

Campaigners have also targeted high street suppliers selling Ahava
products. In February, John Lewis announced that it would no longer stock Ahava products (see here).

The Monmouth Street store has been closed down on dozens of occasions by
campaigners locking-on inside the shop. Ahava was initially shy of assisting the
police in prosecutions fearing scrutiny of the legality of their business. In
August 2010 a case against four blockaders collapsed after Odelia Haroush, a
director of Ahava, failed to turn up to give evidence.

In March 2011 four more blockaders stood trial at Stratford Magistrate’s
Court for Aggravated Trespass and breach of Section 69 of the Public Order Act.
The defendants argued in their defence that Ahava’s business in Monmouth Street was unlawful. Judgement has been reserved until 21st April 2011.

The Monmouth Street shop has been targeted, on dozens of occasions, by
activists daubing slogans on the windows, super-gluing the locks, throwing paint
bombs, and damaging the shop front.

This combination of public demonstrations, legal challenges and
clandestine direct action has proved a successful formula.

A shop front for Israeli apartheid

The Monmouth Street store was never really a profit making enterprise for
Ahava. Ahava UK’s accounts up until the end of 2009 show a total loss of more
than £250,000 despite receiving more than £300,000 from its Israeli parent
company, with no repayment plan. Instead, the store was being subsidised by the
parent company to provide a shop window into the UK market for Ahava Israel.

New struggles

Ahava’s attempts to promote their brand in the UK are not over. The
store’s manager claims that the company will look for new premises. Ahava also
has a sister company, Ahava UK Ltd, running an internet and mail order
operation, with premises in Cheltenham.

Ahava is also participating in the NanoRetox programme, an EU/Natural
History Museum investigation of nanomaterials, along with King’s College and
Imperial College (see here).

URL Link: http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=3942

Echo & The Bunnymen

Report by Anne, photos by Janet. Thanks also to Yael, Camden PSC and everyone else who took part.

On Saturday 16th April, a few hours after the fortnightly Ahava protest, some of
us moseyed on down to The Union Chapel in Islington, North London. The Union Chapel is a large and imposing church and venue, covered at present by
scaffolding.

Why were we there?

A concert was being given that evening by Echo & The Bunnymen with Ian McCulloch. No harm in that. Except that on the 29 April, the group is booked to play in Tel Aviv – capital of Apartheid Israel.

At around 6:00pm familiar faces began to arrive in twos and threes and commenced unpacking placards, unfurling banners and attaching these to the scaffolding.

We were just standing back to admire the effect when a couple of the band’s
roadies came out with very grim expressions and in their best ‘we’re not standing for any of this’ manner, began ripping our banners and placards off the scaffolding. This was very inconvenient as we had to hold the banners and placards instead which is very tiring on the arms, particularly the banners.

A couple of us nipped round the back, as we guessed that was where the band would be arriving.

A parked van (and of course the roadies we’d already met) suggested we were too late, but we lingered hopefully. After a few minutes the two roadies emerged still
looking as if they were dealing with the most challenging crisis of their career but determined to show that they were equal to it.

Moments later a car sped up the road and screeched to a halt right beside us.

What a piece of luck! There sat Ian McCulloch himself in the front passenger seat! Out he hopped, very niftily indeed, looking a trifle embarrassed and anxious to make himself scarce.

“Don’t go to Tel Aviv!!” we shouted. “Don’t play Apartheid Israel!!”

I’ll think about it,” he yelled back and in a flash the protective arms of the two roadies closed behind him and he was through the door. With the worst of the danger over, the two roadies stayed outside to parley with us. One of them said mysteriously:

You don’t know what causes I campaign for privately, I go on demonstrations – much bigger ones than this.

Size isn’t everything,” we reminded him as they disappeared inside.

Quiet ensued and while we were talking over what had happened, two further young men came along within a few minutes of each other, one with a bottle of Jack Daniels and the other with a bag from a well-known hamburger chain. Both had trouble gaining admittance which gave us an opportunity to talk to them.

Well, the back of the church didn’t see many passersby and anyone, even a BDS campaigner, will feel foolish holding a banner when only one person passes every five minutes. So we made our way round the front again.

By now it was about 6:40 and a sizeable queue was forming. We set about handing out leaflets which, for the entire course of the two-and-a-half hours we were doing this, hardly anyone refused.

A large proportion of the people we talked to were positively supportive. A good many wanted to discuss the issues of injustice and Apartheid in Israel. Many were surprised that Ian McCulloch who played at the Love Music, Hate Racism festival would agree to play in Israel.

A few fans said that the news that the group was going to play in Israel had spoilt
the concert for them and they regretted buying the tickets. One person was so
engaged with talking to us we had to remind him the show was starting. He was
appalled by the Echo & The Bunnymen betrayal.

We heard some familiar arguments such as:

Isn’t it better to go there and use the opportunity to say what you think about their policies than not go at all and miss out on this opportunity?”

Our reply to this was:

“Trust us. We know what makes a difference to the Israelis.”

They would say, Come to Israel. All these famous performers come and perform for us, that proves it, there’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing.”

It was generally conceded by the fans we spoke to that we were probably right.

Echo & The Bunnymen fans are a pleasant bunch of people. Our evening was much enlivened by the good-humoured and well-informed discussions we had.

Even the roadies were smiling in the end.

Please email Echo and The Bunnymen a message at: info@bunnymen.com and israel@bunnymen.com.

You can also join the “Echo & The Bunnymen, Don’t Go to Apartheid Israel” Facebook groups:

http://www.facebook.com/thebunnymen?sk=wall

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Echo-and-the-Bunnymen-Dont-Play-Apartheid-Israel/188424604525935

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=159104127484592

For Palestine & Vittorio: You are always in our hearts

Thanks to Seymour for this video.

For Vittorio Arrigoni and All Those Who Have Given Their Lives To Free Palestine: You Are Always In Our Hearts.

Report by Salim, West London PSC

Saturday 16 April 2011 – Despite the welcome announcement that Ahava’s lease will not be renewed when it expires in September, nearly forty human rights campaigners, some coming as far as Brighton and Dorset, continued to gather outside Ahava’s flagship store near Covent Garden for the protest that has been held every fortnight for over a year.

A variety of flyers and leaflets explaining the case for boycotting Ahava products were handed to passers-by and many members of the public stopped to talk with human rights campaigners, expressed their support and wanted to know more about the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.

Two women promoting a new eatery or food shop – there are many in the area -came to Monmouth Street and offered free samples of food to everyone.

A small group of about six Zionists, including members of the Zionist Federation and two Welsh Christian Zionists mounted a counter-protest. Sensing that the tide of opinion was against them and desperate to make some sort of impact, the Zionists opted to plumb to the depths of inhumanity and started very loudly gloating about the death of International Solidarity Movement peace activist Vittorio Arrigoni who was brutally murdered in Gaza late last week.

Zionists showed their true colours by hurling verbal abuse at campaigners that included shouting “VITTORIO SLEEPS WITH THE FISHES!”, as well as yelling other obscenities and making signs of throat slitting and hanging.

One grief-stricken campaigner was so overwhelmed with emotion by the Zionists taunts that he had to be restrained by police. Many of the protesters who were visibly upset and distraught as well, made complaints to the police about the Zionists behaviour, but they – as usual – did little or nothing to intervene.

Campaigners responded to the provocation with a powerful, united and dignified response. They gathered together, deliberately turned their backs on the Zionists and held a ceremony of remembrance for Vittorio.

Rose delivered a short but intensively moving eulogy, recalling Vittorio’s selfless work in support of Palestinians and spoke about the principles of justice and peace that he held so dear. There was then a two-minute silence. With bowed heads, protesters sorrowfully remembered the loss of Vittorio and all those who have given their lives in the struggle to free Palestine. The street and surroundings were eerily quiet for those two minutes; even the Zionists were lost for words.

After the two-minute silence, campaigners looked up, cleared their throats, dried their tears and returned – with renewed determination – to campaign for the boycott of Ahava and for a free Palestine.

Additional coverage on Tony Greenstein’s Blog.

******

Vittorio Arrigoni London Vigil 

Friday 15 April 2011 – Here’s a video of the vigil held outside the Italian Embassy in London to honour the memory of peace activist Vittorio Arrigoni. Please be aware that it contains graphic images of war.

Thanks to happysky for this video.