The Zionist Federation is appalled by the Highbury Corner Magistrates Court decision to clear of all charges the four anti-Israel campaigners who locked themselves to fixtures inside the Israeli-owned Ahava shop on Monmouth Street in London’s Covent Garden, once in September 2009 and again in December 2009. We note that owing to an apparent failure of communication, a key witness for the prosecution was not present in court. We particularly regret this fact, as it is of vital importance that the strongest legal case possible is made against those who seek to attack and disrupt Israeli and Jewish shops.
Boycotting and disrupting Jewish and Israeli shops is always wrong. The movement to encourage such boycotts is misguided at best, and deliberately unhelpful and discriminatory at worst. Such boycotts damage the well-being of Israeli and Palestinians, who depend on the support of British and other consumers for their livelihood.
This case comes after last month's case at Hove Crown Court when seven anti-war activists were cleared of all charges after breaking into the EDO arms equipment factory in Brighton and causing £200,000 worth of damage. The British courts and government should resist in the strongest ways possible the attempts of small, fringe groups like these to politicise and highjack our legal system. A worrying trend can be observed where the courts are allowing disruptive and damaging behaviour to go unpunished.
We strongly disagree with both the actions and the motivations of the anti-Ahava protestors. Their attempt to discredit this entirely legitimate business is wrong. It does nothing to promote the dialogue, negotiation or spirit of cooperation which are essential ingredients for a positive future for all in the Middle East.
Different legal interpretations regarding the current status of the West Bank and its potential future status should not be used as a reason to attack individuals and businesses operating legally and legitimately in the UK. Nobody has a right to attempt to intimidate innocent shopkeepers and customers who are doing nothing wrong. Such bullying is at one pathetic and counterproductive, and reveals the true motivations of the perpetrators. We call to everyone to stand strong in the face of this bullying.
The ZF encourages shoppers to show support for Ahava and other Israeli businesses by shopping freely in their stores and buying their high quality products, as they would in any other store.
Jonathan Sacerdoti, Director of Public Affairs of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain which supports a regular counter-protest supporting Ahava, said: "the British legal system is being highjacked by a small and malicious group of anti-Israel campaigners. They appear to be far more interested in attempting to damage the Jewish state than in building a peaceful future for the Middle East."
"This UK government, like the last, does not support boycotting Israeli goods, no matter from which part of Israel they originate. Those who seek to intimidate shops selling Israeli products should be ashamed of themselves. Their actions run contrary to the traditional British values of decency, fairness and freedom. Other local businesses are also damaged by the presence of these disruptive crowds, who show no concern for the damage they do to those around them."