Checkpoint Covent Garden: The Video + No Way Through

Video of action held in Covent Garden on 25th February 2012 calling for the reopening of Shuhada Street in Al-Khalil (Hebron).

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, from an April 2011 post, brings the shocking reality of Palestinian life in the West Bank uncomfortably close to home.

Open Shuhada Street – Checkpoint Covent Garden

Welcome to Israel!

Israeli checkpoint set up in Central London

The following press release and photos were issued by the Israeli Occupation Force’s Spokesperson in London:

ישראל כוחות הכיבוש

London, UK.

2 Adar I 5772 / Saturday 25 February 2012

In an attempt to support UK police and security agencies in their fight against terrorism, soldiers of the Israeli Occupation Force set up a checkpoint complete with watchtower outside one of the London’s busiest districts, Covent  Garden. Metropolitan Police granted IOF soldiers responsibility to maintain public order, guard the checkpoint and keep Covent Garden terrorist-free.

The area was chosen because it has been described as a hub of anti-Israel activity where terrorists forced the nearby Ahava shop to close in 2011.

IOF Soldiers, brandishing heavy weapons and armed to the teeth, greeted the hundreds of people who passed through the checkpoint with shouts of “Shalom – Welcome to Israel!

Residents and tourists were ordered to have their ID cards and passports ready for inspection and a number of suspicious persons were detained, including all people of Arab appearance. One female Arab was held for several hours, despite her plea that she was late for her hospital appointment and a heavily pregnant young woman was also detained. Several suspicious young teenagers, as well as a few internationalists who said they were tourists were interrogated and searched before being released.

Most pedestrians who passed through the checkpoint were cooperative, expressed thanks and gave the thumbs up. A member of the pubic was overheard to say: “I thought we were in Britain, not Israel.

Representatives of the IOF Spokesperson distributed information to those allowed to enter and leave the checkpoint explaining its purpose, while others explained to the curious how this is all a normal part of life in Al-Khalil (Hebron) and in many towns and villages throughout the Israeli Occupied Territories.

At the end of the day, the checkpoint was disassembled and returned to the Embassy of Israel in London.

ENDS.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Today’s protest in London called for the reopening of Shuhada Street in Al-Khalil (Hebron) held to the day on the 18th anniversary of the Baruch Goldstein massacre during which a Jewish extremist murdered 29 Palestinian worshippers and injured 125 more during morning prayers at Hebron’s al-Ibrahimi mosque.

Hebron has been under Israeli occupation since 1969, when the first religious settlers, who had barricaded themselves in a downtown hotel room and refused to leave, were coaxed out by the Israeli military and given the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba. Ten years later, the act was repeated in an abandoned hospital, and this time Israel allowed the squatters to settle in downtown Hebron.

Restrictions on Palestinian life in Hebron accelerated after the Baruch Goldstein massacre. The expulsion of Palestinians and their livelihoods from the heart of Hebron’s Old City became an institutionalised process after the area became Israeli-controlled H2 in 1997.  Now, at least 500 settlers and at least 2,000 soldiers have shut down Shuhada Street, the economic heart of both Hebron and the entire southern West Bank.

The gradual takeover of Shuhada Street, beginning in the 1980′s and culminating after the second Intifada has turned the once-bustling marketplace into a ghost town and has caused the (often forced) abandonment of over 1,000 housing units and over 1,800 shops and storefronts — which now, in a cruel and ironic twist of history, are graffitied with the same Stars of David that once marred Jewish storefronts in 1930′s Germany.

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Additional images of Checkpoint Covent Garden can be found here.

There’s no beauty at this exhibition

Illegal settlement cosmetics company Ahava exhibits at Professional Beauty 2012

Report by London BDS

In September 2011, thanks to the work of human rights activists, along with a team of solicitors and barristers, Ahava closed its only shop in the UK as a result of a two-year campaign of fortnightly demonstrations, direct actions and legal challenges - though many would agree that the antics of the Zionist Federation’s Jonathan Hoffman also proved invaluable.

Not wanting to open another shop that would attract unwanted attention and generate further bad publicity for both themselves and their landlord, Ahava is seeking other ways to sell their dodgy lotions & potions. Nancy Kricorian, CodePink’s coordinator for its Stolen Beauty campaign, compared it to a game of whack-a-mole, as new places where Ahava is sold pop-up frequently.

For instance, we reported last November of a visit to the World Travel Market at London’s ExCeL centre where Ahava had a stand in the high-security Israel pavilion and in January 2012, the company began to peddle their wares direct to spa and salon owners up and down the country under the guise of a roadshow.

Professional Beauty, a beauty industry trade magazine, organises exhibitions throughout the UK targeted at salon owners and those who work in the beauty sector. According to the organisers, the two-day event at ExCeL last year drew over 33,000 visitors. Without a doubt and anyway you look at it,  Professional Beauty is one of the largest shows of its kind in Europe.

In October 2011, a coalition of human rights activists attended the Professional Beauty North show at Manchester Central where they staged a high-profile demonstration inside the venue, very near to the Ahava stand. Many more activists were outside, leafleting and engaging with the hundreds of visitors who attended that day.

London’s ExCeL centre.

Again exhibiting at Professional Beauty on the 4th and 5th of March at ExCeL is Ahava UK Ltd, who will again attempt to use the show as a platform to promote and sell their plundered potions to whoever they can. Ahava (at Stand H16) are still desperate to unload stock from their closed Monmouth Street shop and are even offering the gullable a 20% discount on their products. 

Organiser Mark Moloney: Ahava is a “law-abiding business.”

The company that organises the Professional Beauty show have repeatedly ignored appeals to bar Ahava. In an interview in Exhibition NewsTrade Exhibitions Managing Director Mark Moloney naively referred to Ahava as a “law-abiding business.”

Perhaps factually challenged or perhaps blinded by the substantial fee paid by every exhibitor to his company, Moloney may not realise that Ahava, a company found to be complicit in Israeli war crimes, violates the 4th Geneva Convention (of which the UK is a signatory), as well as the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. Moloney may be ignorant of the fact that Ahava cheats the UK government out of much-needed revenue by claiming – contrary to international consensus - that its products originate in Israel, thus eligible for a reduced tariff under the EU-Israel Trade Agreement. Also under doubt is whether Moloney knows anything about life under Israeli military occupation or has ever visited the region.

As covered in a February 2011 post, London activists were present both inside and outside of last year’s Professional Beauty exhibition at ExCeL, engaging with and distributing flyers to both visitors and exhibitors, exposing the notorious illegal settlement cosmetics company.

At ExCel in February 2011.

We hope that Trade Exhibitions Ltd and especially its owner, Mark Moloney will see sense and bar Ahava from exhibiting at any future Professional Beauty event.

After all, supporting apartheid can be bad for business.

*****

KNOW YOUR ENEMY: AHAVA

Pat Strutt, Ahava UK’s Managing Director.

Here’s an interview with the Managing Director of Ahava UK Ltd, Pat Strutt, posted on the Professional Beauty site on 12 September 2011 – about a week before the Ahava shop on Monmouth Street closed for good. The page also includes a link to Ahava’s training programme.

If you’re going to be in London on the 4th & 5th of March (Sunday and Monday), you can register to attend Professional Beauty 2012 for free here.

On Facebook, you can leave a message on the Professional Beauty Facebook page or tweet: @pro_beauty

And contact details for Trade Exhibitions Ltd:

3.21 The Plaza
535 Kings Road
London SW10 0SZ
Tel: 020 7351 0536
Email: info@professionalbeauty.co.uk
 

In August 2011, CodePink activists were at the COSMOPROF beauty exhibition in Las Vegas where Ahava was exhibiting. This video is definitely worth watching:

Visit www.stolenbeauty.org to find out why Ahava is such a dirty business.

A toxic company and rotten tomatoes

Campaigners outside Camden Town Hall. Cllr Clyde Loakes is the Chair of the NLWA.

On Friday 10 February, the following letter was published in the Islington Tribune:

Race for £1bn deal

Burning our rubbish is a nice little earner. For this service Islington, along with six other boroughs, will each pay £170m over 25 years.

There are three companies in the race to get their hands on this colossal £1.2bn contract. Today (Friday) one of them will be thrown out.

We hope it will be Veolia.

North London Waste Authority has given very little information on the three tenders. Only two of the bidders included practical solutions to the authority’s objective of combining heat usage in the project, known as CHP. On the other hand, Veolia’s solution is not and could not be CHP.

To confirm this, we researched information from other bodies, including the Infrastructure Planning Commission and the Environment Agency.

Does it surprise anyone that Veolia, which has been accused of profiting from illegal Israeli settlements, shows such disregard for environmental objectives?

Veolia is also bidding to get a £3.5bn contract to process the waste, but the decision on this, involving £500m worth of Islington taxes, will be voted on later this year.
 
Yael Kahn
Islington Friends of Yibna

That very same day, members of the ‘No to Veolia Action Group’  (No2VAG) were outside Camden Town Hall where the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) met to discuss Veolia’s tender for the £1.2 billion contract serving the North London boroughs of Camden, Barnet, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest.

It appears that the NLWA does not believe in transparency as the public, who the NLWA are supposed to represent, have not been informed of any decision whether or not Veolia will be excluded. Had the NLWA truly acted in accordance with its own objectives, it would have recommended last December not to shortlist Veolia for the billion pound fuel contract. Hopefully, the NLWA’s decision should be announced sometime next month and will be the right one.

The CHP on the placard refers to "Combined Heat & Power," something that's lacking in Veolia's bid.

Both human rights organisations and campaigners have called for Veolia to withdraw from projects in the occupied territories and cease supporting the infrastructure of settlements that the international community regard as illegal under the 4th Geneva Convention and most people see as morally wrong.

Veolia’s complicity in supporting Israeli war crimes and apartheid runs deep. In addition to building and operating a tramway that links settlements cementing Israel’s hold on occupied East Jerusalem, Veolia also transports settlement refuse to its Tovlan landfill site in the occupied Jordan Valley and operates settler-only bus services under the guise of its subsidiary Connex along Highway 443. This road is often referred to as an apartheid road, since Palestinians are prohibited from using most sections of it.

Thanks in part to pressure from activists and campaigners, Veolia has been losing contracts hand over fist both in the UK and throughout Europe.

In 2011, Ealing Council failed to select the Veolia bid for its domestic refuse, street cleaning and parks maintenance contract that would have been worth about £300m to the troubled company. Later that year, Veolia lost their bid for a £485 million contract for treatment of domestic waste in West London. In addition, Tower Hamlets Council passed a motion calling for its mayor to review its contract with Veolia, the National Union of Students called on its members to campaign against the company and grassroots anti-Veolia campaigns have sprung up in both South and East London.

Veolia also submitted a bid for the colossal £3.5 billion NLWA waste processing contract, but the decision which bid to de-select has been delayed again. The company has since acknowledged the campaign against it, but has refused to withdraw from Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, a decision that has cost it billions.

The next meeting of the NLWA is scheduled for Friday 9th March when members of No2VAG will again be present. In the meantime, if you live in North London (or even if you don’t), it’s worth checking out the Hackney Palestine Solidarity Campaign site for more information about No2VAG.

By artist Ellen Graubart of No2VAG

On Saturday February 11th, campaigners were outside London’s Natural History Museum during the fortnightly protests to raise awareness of Veolia’s corporate complicity in Israel’s violations of international law. Veolia, in an attempt to whitewash their corporate complicity, sponsors the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, which runs until 11 March 2012.

Despite the bitterly cold weather, activists distributed flyers and successfully engaged with museum visitors, the vast majority who expressed their support for the campaign and bitter disappointment with the NHM for their continuing corporate partnership with Veolia.

Here are a few images of the day:

Finally, we were pleased (but not surprised) to find this subvertised package of Israeli vine tomatoes in a Co-op supermarket:

People of conscience are increasingly taking action. Whether it’s in the town hall, on the street, at home, online or while out shopping (especially in a supermarket!), BDS is something that everyone can participate in.

Let’s keep the resistance continuous.

All the hallmarks of Zionism

Report by Steven Fung

Last Saturday, I and a group of other concerned citizens from all over Britain and Ireland went to Hatton Garden, the centre of London’s diamond industry, to protest about its complicity in the blood diamond trade. Specifically, we wanted to highlight the fact that the diamond industry relies on the flawed Kimberley Process, which only monitors where diamonds are mined, but is crucially silent on where these diamonds are cut and polished.

This means that the Kimberley Process can and does label diamonds processed in states with highly dubious human rights records such as Israel, as “conflict free”. We believe that this practice is dishonest and deceptive and provides cover for countries like Israel to persist in their human rights violations with impunity. It lulls ethical shoppers into a false sense of security with regard to their jewellery purchases.

Whilst the general public may well be aware that Israel’s leading exports are agricultural produce such as avocados, various citrus fruits and herbs and is famed for its IT industry, not many people are aware that its biggest export is actually diamonds. In fact, Israel is the world’s leading diamond exporter, accounting for nearly half of all diamonds imported into the United States.

These are most often mined from various African countries who themselves have abysmal human rights records. Israel imports these rough diamonds, paying those African countries a pittance. The diamonds are then cut and polished in Israel, and exported to European and North American markets at a far higher price. Therefore, Israel earns most of the profits. Worst of all, the profits from these blood diamonds go directly to funding its multi-billion dollar arms industry and its ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.

We have seen how destructive Israel’s mighty military can be, when as recently as December 2008, under cover of the Christmas holidays, missiles and banned weapons such as white phosphorous bombs were unleashed on Palestinian civilians. Most of the 1,600 people killed by these bombs directly funded by blood diamonds were children and women (“terrorists” in the eyes of the Israeli media).

So, in time for Valentine’s Day, when people often buy gems for loved ones, we wanted to expose this deeply unethical trade to shoppers at Hatton Garden. The response to our leafleting and protest was generally very positive, with many passersby coming forward wanting to know more about the UK diamond retailers’ complicity in blood diamonds.

There was, however, one notable exception. An employee from Alexander Craig Jewellers, who clearly was not pleased with our campaigning stood outside and harangued us. He was unable to engage us in a rational and civilised discussion, so instead he resorted to a racist slur. This is what he had to say to Seán Clinton, of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign:

“I can see you’re Irish…(smirks)…so there’s not much point in arguing, is it?”

When Seán asked him what he meant by that, he continued with his racist slur:

“You’re potatoes aren’t you?…a stupid comment for stupid people!”

So there you have it, as we have seen with the Ahava campaign, Israel’s supporters and bedfellows these days are the English Defence League (EDL) and now racist shopkeepers from Hatton Garden.

You have to wonder why these shopkeepers are so defensive about diamonds from Israel that they are prepared to make such incautious remarks. Clearly, if the industry has nothing to hide they would have no problem clarifying to members of the public exactly how these diamonds are “conflict free”.

The fact that they are unable to  – and have to resort to racial insults – instead speaks volumes.

For further information:

Electronic Intifada articles by Seán Clinton:

Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign – Boycott Israeli Diamonds

No Valentine for Israeli blood diamonds

Report/photos by London BDS and IPSC

Saturday 4 February 2012

Members of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign joined London human rights campaigners in Hatton Garden, the centre of London’s jewellery trade, to raise awareness among shoppers and jewellers about the continuing sale of Israeli blood diamonds.

Israel is one of the world’s leading manufacturers and exporters of cut & polished diamonds which generate more than US$ 1 billion (about UK£ 600 million) a year for the Apartheid State. Many jewellers falsely claim Israeli diamonds are “conflict-free” which is totally unjustified, given Israel’s blatant violation of international laws.

Campaigners successfully engaged with and distributed flyers to both shoppers and jewellers informing them why they should avoid purchasing diamonds that were processed in Israel.

Large, colourful banners reading “ISRAELI BLOOD DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER…ON YOUR CONSCIENCE” and “DON’T ENGAGE WITH ISRAELI BLOOD DIAMONDS” were also displayed that attracted attention from both pedestrians and motorists.

Sean Clinton, a leading campaigner against Israeli blood diamonds and one of the activists present said:

“While there is some public awareness about the trade in blood-tainted, rough diamonds from Zimbabwe, the media in general ignores the far larger trade in blood tainted diamonds from Israel. 

According to evidence presented at the London session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine last year, the Israeli diamond industry generates about US$1 billion in funding for the Israeli military each year. So when someone buys a diamond from Israel they are helping to fund war crimes and other human rights violations in Palestine.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO

  • Urge people who are shopping for jewellery not to purchase a diamond that was processed in Israel. Diamonds that are cut and polished in Israel help fund war crimes, apartheid and oppression.
  • Find out more in Sean’s Electronic Intifada article here.
  • Visit the Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds Facebook page.

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