Boycotters of Israeli products won a round after a two-year harassment campaign in London. AHAVA, the Israeli Dead Sea minerals cosmetics company, announced it closed one of its London stores this weekend.
Ynet News reports even though the shop in trendy Covent Garden attracted loyal customers, it “has also become the center of mass pro-Palestinian protests, prompting the company's management to give in and shut it down.”
Since 2009, pro-Palestinian activists have been gathering on weekends outside the store, harassing customers and employees. The protesters allege their problem with the company is it being based in Mitzpe Shalem, what they consider "an illegal and criminal settlement in the occupied territories." Protesters also consider the Dead Sea to be “disputed territory” even though a large swath of its shoreline is not even situated in the West Bank, rather in pre-1967 Israel.
After a window was shattered during a protest, the London Police set up barricades and positioned officers outside the shop, not exactly an inviting scene for business.
"The shop wasn't profitable," AHAVA spokesman told Yedioth Ahronoth. "The protests damaged our image and created negative media coverage. We are a commercial company and we must conduct cost-benefit calculations."
The paper quotes sources in London saying the store was forced to close after its landlord would not renew AHAVA’s lease. The landlord blamed the noisy protesters for bothering neighboring merchants, who say their sales were badly affected by the commotion.
"On some Saturdays it was a real nightmare being here," says a salesman in a nearby store. "We couldn't walk on the street because of the protests and the area looked like a scene of a terrorist attack."
"We'll continue protesting against any institution originating in the Occupied Territories until we remove all of them from Britain," a source in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said Tuesday. "Getting rid of AHAVA is just the first step."
Anti-Israel activists from London BDS, the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign” posted photos of the boxed up inventory and AHAVA letters removed from the outdoor sign:
The BDS activists say they are part of the UK’s CODEPINK international “Stolen Beauty” campaign. They posted this text on their website, utilizing one chilling verb:
“The above images are the end result of a successful campaign to cleanse London’s Monmouth Street of Ahava, a notorious retailer of Dead Sea beauty products made from natural resources plundered from the Palestinian people and manufactured on an illegal West Bank settlement.”
It’s unclear if the protesters’ use of the word “cleanse” referred to their intentions to wipe out Israeli business entities, as in religious or ethnic “cleansing,” or was simply a play on words since AHAVA is a cosmetics company.
Despite their claim the boycott revolves around “disputed” or “occupied” territory, the pro-Palestinian activists are targeting Israeli businesses that don’t do any business in the West Bank.
Earlier this month, British pro-Palestinian activists staged a shout-down of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra during its recent London recitals, as reported in The Blaze.
The Philharmonic wasn’t fazed and continued playing. It’s faced worse challenges. During the first Gulf War, its Jerusalem audience wore gas masks as Iraqi SCUD missiles hit Israel. It also played a concert from inside a sealed bomb shelter. In 2006, the orchestra was in mid-performance in Haifa when the first missiles hit the city. Nobody left the hall.
Anti-Israel boycotters hope other businesses show less resilience. They are involved in a worldwide effort to impact both Israeli businesses and academic institutions.
Last week, the Jerusalem Post reported the British labor federation, the Trade Union Congress, reaffirmed its support of the anti-Israel boycott, saying it will “review” its relationship with its Israeli counterpart, the Histadrut.
Though one AHAVA store is now closed, a survey of Israeli boycotts by the Israeli paper Yediot Ahronot concluded the “boycott movement fails to make financial impact but damages Israel's global image.”
Tactics have included protesters in Rome handing out avocados smeared with a red substance resembling blood to protest the Israeli produce exporter Carmel Agrexco, activists in Paris throwing Israeli products off the shelves and a London coffee shop advertising “no Israeli products are sold here.”
An extensive review conducted by the European Friends of Israel, an organization that liaises between parliamentary groups that work to protect Israeli interests, shows that activities calling for a boycott of Israel took place in almost every European nation over the past year.
And they have made strides in the UK, where the government recommended to businesses to label products made in West Bank settlements and the Golan Heights. The British supermarket chain Tesco added a special extension to its customer service lines to provide information for those wanting to boycott Israeli products. A few months later, it canceled this number after complaints from Jewish groups.
In the U.S., the boycott campaign has focused on universities; however, there are efforts to strike at business too. In 2009, radical and pro-Palestinian activists including CODEPINK pulled Israeli products off of shelves, dumping them in carts and in the aisle at Trader Joe’s in San Francisco, Seattle, Pittsburgh and a few other cities.
The U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel says it was inspired by the historic boycott of South Africa and calls on the international community to “impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel.” Its website shows endorsements from 569 academics working in American universities.
In an effort to counter these protests, on July 11th the Israeli Knesset passed a law banning calls for boycotts. Under the law, any person or organization calling for a boycott of Israel or Israeli settlements can be sued by the targeted company without having to prove any damage. Earlier that day, Glenn Beck spoke at a Knesset hearing focused on international efforts to de-legitimize Israel and how to counter them.