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.
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.
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 2009 – TESCO, 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.
Tesco PLC, New Tesco House, Delamare Road, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, England EN8 9SL
Telephone 0800 505 555*
*Monday to Saturday: 9am to 6pm