A visit to London’s World Travel Market

Security tight around Ahava’s stand at major UK travel exhibition

Two Israeli security operatives (circled) opposite the Ahava stand, ready to pounce on any demonstrators (or photographers) at London's World Travel Market.

Report by London BDS

Even though campaigners have been successful in closing the UK’s only Ahava shop, it would be premature to say that the campaign against the company is over, since our motto is: ‘The resistance must be continuous.’

In Wales, activists have been campaigning to rid Ahava from a local beauty salon with tactics that include leafleting, lobbying, filing complaints with Trading Standards and getting coverage in the local press.

Just last month, activists in Manchester held a demonstration inside a major beauty trade show where Ahava was exhibiting, showing the hundreds of exhibitors and visitors attending the ‘Professional Beauty 2011′ event that ‘there’s no beauty in occupation.’

And in London, Kings College students are presently campaigning to divest their university from its partnership with Ahava in an EU-funded research project.

So when we heard that Ahava was going to be exhibiting at the World Travel Market 2011, touted as ‘The Leading Global Event for The Travel Industry,’ we knew it was an opportunity to further publicise the campaign against this toxic brand and registered to attend the four-day event held at the ExCeL exhibition centre in East London’s Docklands.

Bringing along a good number of Ahava boycott campaign postcards on the day we visited, which was ironically dubbed ‘World Responsible Tourism Day,’ we found the location of the Brand Israel pavilion NOT in the Middle East area of the exhibition where you would expect, but in the EUROPE section, sandwiched between the Czech Republic and Romania.

Since when was Israel in Europe?

Under the Israeli big tent, there were about thirty-five agencies, municipalities, organisations and businesses that fuelled the apartheid state’s tourism and hospitality sectors. The larger exhibitors included the Israel Ministry of Tourism, the Jerusalem Tourist Authority, El Al airlines and the Dan Hotel chain.

There was also a refreshment and seating area in the centre serving up free Israeli wine and snacks. A noticeable number of vicious-looking, security staff dressed in ill-fitting suits and wearing earpieces hovered menacingly around, unintentionally providing the few visitors with a taste of what life for Palestinians unfortunate enough to live under Israeli occupation is like.

Free wine in the refreshment area. The busiest part of the apartheid state's pavilion.

A novel feature was a small patch of ‘Holy Land’ that visitors to the pavilion could walk on (without fear of being interrogated, detained, shot or deported).

The Israel Ministry of Tourism stand freely dispensed maps which identified the West Bank as ‘Judea’ and ‘Samaria’ and at the Jerusalem Tourism counter we collected literature advertising the 2012 Jerusalem Marathon. On a cover of a flyer promoting the event, the logo of Adidas, a major sponsor was mysteriously absent even though other sponsors logos were prominently displayed.

Another Dead Sea cosmetics company, Dead Sea Premier, who flog their dodgy products from kiosks staffed by Israelis in shopping centres, was also exhibiting. This company – just like Ahava – has a notorious background.

In December 2009, eight Premier employees who staffed a kiosk in a Bristol shopping centre were arrested (and later deported) for working illegally in the UK. And in January 2011, activists scored another BDS victory by successfully getting Premier’s kiosks removed from Irish and Scottish shopping centres.

‘More than you could ever imagine’ is Premier’s highly appropriate tagline.

Premier’s representative when questioned about the source of the natural minerals used in their products replied: “I don’t know,” despite the free samples being labelled ‘Made in Israel.’ When asked about Premier’s presence in West Bank settlements, the representative offered a brochure and left to speak to a colleague.

Dead Sea Premier: "More than you could ever imagine"

At the larger Ahava stand around the corner, the display stands were filled with a wide assortment of their stolen goods for sale, which was probably stock from their former Monmouth Street shop. The prices were crudely drawn on pieces of lined paper with a biro – something that looked very much out-of-place.

We were later to find out why.

Playing the part of a potential customer, I casually asked one of Ahava’s ambassadors if anyone had questioned the legality of their products. The representative nodded their head and in a quiet voice said, “I  know, but I can’t talk about it.

That said it all.

After walking and leafleting around the world for several hours distributing Ahava boycott campaign postcards and chatting to countless exhibitors and visitors, we attracted the attention of some Spanish and African reporters who wanted to know more about the campaign and interviewed us.

At the end of a very productive day, we paid a visit to see the organiser and asked why Ahava was permitted to exhibit and sell their illegal goods. Apparently, the sale of products at the exhibition was against the rules and we were told someone would investigate.

Unfortunately, no one was able to provide a reason why Ahava, given their notoriety, was even allowed to exhibit, but the person at the front desk did provide contact details of one Paul Nelson, Reed Exhibition’s PR Manager.

Not surprisingly, neither Mr Nelson nor anyone else from Reed ever returned our emails or phone calls.

Returning the next day to the Israel pavilion, I was pleased to see that our visit resulted in some success, as no Ahava products were being sold.

Word must have spread about our efforts, as there were more security staff at the Israel pavilion than during the previous day, along with fewer visitors. Success!

Our observations proved without a doubt that behind Brand Israel’s slick facade, something sure stinks.

This overzealous Israeli wanted this image deleted in the interests of 'security,' but this is the UK, not the West Bank.

An opportunity to safely walk on Palestinian land.

Caught! Packing up Ahava's stolen goods which are clearly visible in the boxes.

The Palestine pavilion, unlike Israel's, was in the Middle East area of the exhibition.

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4 thoughts on “A visit to London’s World Travel Market

  1. These vile people will stoop at nothing. Each move they make increases the hatred that so many feel towards them. and then we get the pooooor little Jewsish people so weak and defenceless with so many enemies.

    • Robert, the Government of Israel is using Judiasm as an excuse for it’s flagrant violations of international law.

      Fortunately, there are many brave Jewish people of conscience (including many in Israel) who take a stand against Zionism, which is the direct cause of so much misery in that part of the world today.

  2. The Jews are a remarkable people in many ways. I have been one all my life. I am very proud of Israel, but land grabbing is not on my agenda. On the other hand. J-BIG appears to be an organisation with it’s head in the sand. Have you not seen that your actions are eerily similar to the actions of the Nazis of the 1930’s. All you are doing is substituting Jew for Israeli and blaming the Israelis for everything that is wrong in the Middle East. You have ignored the huge number of Arabs who wish to live side-by-side Jews. You have not mentioned that all Arabs are treated equally in Israel when it comes to education and health. This in turn ridicules your argument that Israel is apartheid. The scant use of derogatory terms for Israel is your way of venting left-wing hatred. Finally, what are you going to say when Hamas eventually take over the West Bank, as they will, and start ‘eliminating’ their political adversaries. Nothing, no doubt.

  3. 1. Jews are no more remarkable than any other people. Philosemitism and anti-Semitism are 2 sides of the same coin. Don’t generalise or stereotype.

    2. Land grabbing may not be on your agenda but without it there would be no Israel, within 67 or 48 borders.

    3. Apparently our actions are ‘eerily similar to the actions of the Nazis of the 1930’s.’ I note that you are not able to say why they are ‘eerily familiar’. Assertion is not the same as proving something is true. However let me help you formulate your argument, albeit not in the direction you indicated:

    When the Supreme Court ruled in Ka’adan that the lease or sale of land could not be restricted to Jews, the Knesset promptly passed by a large majority the first reading of a JNF Bill to restore the status quo ante. This was the response of Jonathan Ben-Artzi, an army refuser and pacifist:

    July 20, 2007
    Shalom to all MKs,
    I`d like to save you some work phrasing the new law regarding purchase of JNF lands. I hope you will be able to appreciate the help.
    In May 4th 1939 a law was implemented, forbidding a certain minority in a certain country from purchasing and leasing the majority`s lands in that country. Instead of re-writing this law now, why don`t you translate and implement that law?
    With best regards,
    Jonathan Ben-Artzi.
    p.s. Those who passed that law were eventually put on trial. Remember that. http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=21283

    4. But possibly, as with many propagandists, you were referring to the Boycott of Israeli Goods. Surely you must be aware that Boycott has always been a way of giving practical solidarity to the oppressed? From the Boycott of slave grown sugar in the West Indies to Apartheid in South Africa. Not forgetting, of course, the Boycott of Nazi Germany by the Labour Movement and many others internationally. Unfortunately the Boycott was broken by the Zionist movement, which preferred to conduct trade with Nazi Germany (Ha’avara).

    5. But yes, I can hear you know, full of righteous hasbara, saying ‘I was referring to the Boycott of Jewish shops on April 1st 1933.’ Unfortunately this is not a good example. Firstly, the Nazi Boycott lasted just one day. It was originally meant to be indefinite but the reaction it caused, in particular the boost to the Boycott of Nazi Germany, ensured it was called off after a day. Of course once the Zionists had destroyed that Boycott there was nothing left to restrain Nazi vigilantes. However the so-called Nazi boycott was nothing of the kind. It was a siege of Jewish shops. In fact very much like the siege of Gaza. You can read about Ha’avara in Edwin Black’s ‘The Transfer Agreement.’

    6. No we haven’t ignored the many Arabs who want to live with Jews, despite of course the fact that a total of 62 percent of Israelis want the government to encourage local Arabs to leave the country,http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3248693,00.html. In an article headed ‘Marriage to an Arab is national treason’ we learn that ‘Recent poll reveals steep rise in racist views against Arabs in Israel; many participants feel hatred, fear when overhearing Arabic, 75 percent don’t approve of shared apartment buildings’ 03.27.07. According to Roee Nahmias ‘Over half of the Jewish population in Israel believes the marriage of a Jewish woman to an Arab man is equal to national treason, according to a recent survey by the Geocartography Institute.’ and ‘Over 75 percent of participants did not approve of apartment buildings being shared between Arabs and Jews. Sixty percent of participants said they would not allow an Arab to visit their home.’

    7. About 40 percent of participants agreed that “Arabs should have their right to vote for Knesset revoked”. And over half of the participants agreed that Israel should encourage its Arab citizens to immigrate from the country. Over half of the participants said they would not want to work under the direct management of an Arab, and 55 percent said “Arabs and Jews should be separated at entertainment sites”.

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3381978,00.html

    8. Unfortunately there is no equality in any aspect of life in Israel between Jews and Arabs. For example there are no ‘unrecognised villages’ in the Jewish sector whereas half of Arab villages are unrecognised and can be demolished any time. This is but one small example

    9. And yes, when all else fails, pull Hamas out of the hat. But in the 1980’s when western sponsorship of Muslim fundamentalists was all the rage, Shin Bet was supporting and encouraging Hamas as a counter-weight to secular Palestinian nationalists. So your concern about Hamas bumping off their opponents on the West Bank seems a tad hypocritical, especially when an Israeli journalists has just gone to prison for 4 ½ years for revealing details of the programme of assassination of Palestinians by Israeli security.

    Of course I realise that rational arguments with Zionists is rarely possible because their core beliefs are irrational (god gave us the land…) but who knows, maybe you’re the exception.

    Tony Greenstein

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