A London supermarket briefly emptied its shelves of most kosher foods on Saturday in response to pro-Palestinian protesters who were upset over the recent war between Israel and the terrorist organization, Hamas, in the Gaza Strip.
The absence of the kosher goods was first pointed out on Twitter by local London actor Colin Appleby who tweeted pictures of the empty shelves, wondering what had prompted the removal of the items, many of which were produced in Europe.
Appleby went on to tweet that he had learned from a store employee that the items had been removed because the company supports a "free Gaza."
.@sainsburys produce has been emptied. It looks like this now. member of staff said "we support free Gaza". Explain? pic.twitter.com/UTxpe6Jksf
— Colin J Appleby (@CJ_Appleby) August 16, 2014
The removal of the items swifty drew ire online where many accused the store of anti-Semitism. The incident quickly earned the hashtag "#Fridgegate."
I shop @waitrose because they're not antisemitic. #sainsburys low blow removing kosher food - Its London 2014 not Berlin 1930 #Fridgegate
— Aryeh Feingold (@AryehFeingold) August 17, 2014
Appleby also tweeted at the store's corporate account, questioning the decision.
“I have been informed that you have, in support of Gaza, removed kosher food from your Holborn branch," he wrote.
The store did not respond to Appleby on Twitter, but the actor returned the next day to discover the kosher section completely restocked. He tweeted that an employee assured him then that the staff member who made the "free Gaza" remark had been disciplined:
.#Fridgegate update. The fridge right now. @sainsburys assure me the staff member has been suitably chastised. pic.twitter.com/0DHmlYr028
— Colin J Appleby (@CJ_Appleby) August 17, 2014
Finally, on Monday, the store released a statement suggesting the offense was unintentional and not part of a larger anti-Israel or anti-Semitic bias.
"We would like to apologize for any inconvenience or offence caused," the store said in a statement. "The decision was taken in one store only to move these chilled products to cold storage elsewhere in that store for a short period on Saturday as a precautionary measure during a demonstration close by."
"As a non-political organization, Sainsbury's would never take such a decision on grounds other than ensuring the quality or safety of our products," the statement concluded.
Follow Josiah Ryan (@JosiahRyan) on Twitter