Tag Archives: edo

Anti-Ahava activists on trial: A view from the public gallery.

An activist on the floor on 22nd November 2010

An activist on the floor on 22nd November 2010

As has been reported in the Jewish Chronicle, last week four anti-Ahava activists stood trial for entering Ahava. The activists lay down on the floor and locked themselves onto a heavy concrete block causing Ahava to shut down and lose business.

There were two separate incidents.

The first incident, involving two activists, took place on 2nd October 2010 and the second, involving another two activists, on 22nd November 2010.  Fellow activists helped to carry the concrete block into the store on each occasion.

The two incidents were combined into one trial, but the four defendants were charged slightly differently.

The two activists from 2nd October were charged with aggravated trespass under S68 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, while the activists from 22nd November were charged with not obeying a police officer after being asked to leave under S69 of the same act.

The trial lasted three days. I arrived half way through day two and for the remaining one and a half days sat in the public gallery next to anti-Ahava activists. Some were dressed in “boycott Israel” T-shirts and others wore “boycott Israel” badges.

The Ahava staff and relevant police officers had already given evidence but I followed the examination and cross-examination of the four defendants.

I expected debate over the legality of the “settlements”, one of which houses the Ahava factory at Mitzpe Shalem (Ahava’s HQ is in Tel Aviv).

The Defence claimed that the “settlements” were illegal and that this tainted all Ahava’s activity as illegal and that the defendants were merely trying to stop this illegal activity when they entered the store on the dates in question.

Under S69 an offence is committed if a police officer “reasonably believes” that an aggravated trespass has been committed and having asked the people to leave they fail to do so as soon as is practicable, as was claimed happened on 22nd November 2010.

The Defence arguments under S69 centred around the suggestion that the police officer could not have formed such a reasonable belief because he did not, for example, read the leaflets presented to him by the activists or phone up Camden Trading Standards to enquire about the ongoing investigation into Ahava’s labeling.

The defendants also claimed they could not have left when asked as they were locked to the concrete block, although the Prosecution queried whether this defence could apply when the activists had intentionally got themselves into that position.

The Prosecution also queried whether the activists could have asked their friends for help in lifting the concrete block and removing it from Ahava. The Defence said that this was a physical impossibility once the activists had locked themselves to the concrete block. They would have to wait to be cut free by the police.

Ongoing domestic investigations against Ahava were a part of the Defence’s case, although Mr Milner, prosecuting, said that there were no outstanding convictions against Ahava.

On the definition of “lawful activity” in S68 Mr Milner asked each of the four defendants whether it was possible for someone to consider the “settlements” to be legal (in contrast, no one would consider murder to be legal)? Each defendant said it was possible, although they wouldn’t agree with that notion themselves.

He also questioned them as to why, for example, they didn’t wait for the outcome of the investigations against Ahava, particularly that undertaken by Camden.

The Defendants felt that all the investigations were getting nowhere. They felt that Camden was dragging its feet and that questions asked in Parliament about Ahava by Dr Phyllis Starkey and Andy Slaughter MP were not acted upon. Therefore, they felt they had no choice but to do what they did.

Mr Milner also put it to the Defendants that Ahava sold certain products that were not from Israel and that, for example, the staff were employed lawfully. Therefore, the defendants were, at least in part, obstructing “lawful activity”. The Defendants replied that all Ahava’s activities were tainted by illegality.

Mr Milner suggested that the actions of the activists amounted to vigilantism and that in a democracy people do not normally act in this way, but go about other ways of protesting something they dislike.

He quoted Lord Hoffman’s obiter dictum in R v Jones (2006). For example, at paragraph 82 Lord Hoffman said:

“The law will not tolerate vigilantes. If the citizen cannot get the courts to order the law enforcement authorities to act (compare R v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, Ex p Blackburn [1968] 2 QB 118) then he must use democratic methods to persuade the government or legislature to intervene.”

CCTV footage was played of the activists entering Ahava. We saw an Ahava member of staff running forward to try to prevent the activists locking themselves to the concrete block. This went to the question of possible intimidation under S68.

The Ahava member of staff was also concerned that she would lose money if she couldn’t reach her bonus target if Ahava had to close while the activists were inside.

The Defence denied there was any intimidation and it was claimed that the police had found the activists a joy to work with. The Defence also denied there was any damage and noted that in the EDO case there was thousands of pounds of damage caused and the defendants were acquitted, whereas at Ahava there was minimal, if any, damage caused.

The Defence attempted to implicate the Ahava staff in Ahava’s alleged illegal activities and imputed full knowledge to them due to the regular protests outside Ahava. A Defence barrister pointed to the public gallery to the activists who regularly protest outside Ahava as evidence that the employees would have had full knowledege of what Ahava was doing.

The Defence also claimed that the “economic pull” of the Ahava factory at Mitzpe Shalem amounted to a war crime under S49 of the Geneva Convention and that Ahava was in breach of the EU-Israel preferential trade agreement. The judge queried whether, even if Ahava was in breach of this agreement, that would make the actual products sold by Ahava illegal.

Judgement was reserved for a later date.

(Please be careful with any comments while the verdict is awaited)

2010

A bad year for Israel in the UK has also been a bad year for many of those who have briefed so viciously against Israel.

Nick Clegg, who called for Israel to be disarmed during Operation Cast Lead in the wake of thousands of Hamas rockets hitting Israeli towns, became Deputy Prime-Minister in the coalition government but has since had his new found credibility shattered having reneged on a pre-election promise that had won his party the student vote; not to increase tuition fees.

Clegg and his anti-Israel Liberal Democrat party will find it difficult to be taken seriously in future, including on Israel.

Lauren Booth seems to have hit financial rock bottom with her bankruptcy and George Galloway lost his national radio slot on Talksport and was ousted from Parliament at the General Election along with Martin Linton, Chair of Labour Friends of Palestine.

Woe betide those who fall from power. The pro-Arab Lobby will have no use for them and will end up looking elsewhere.

So one man’s loss is another’s gain and the new anti-Israel voice on the block is Andrew Slaughter, who retained his seat in the election.

Although Slaughter is Labour’s Shadow Justice Minister that didn’t stop him recently meeting Hamas; the organisation that likes to send Palestinians into Israeli restaurants and discos primed with bombs to murder as many Jews as possible.

It has been a year where the picket of Ahava in Covent Garden has taken root, with the objective of closing it down.

In a way it has been a sad but fascinating experience to see the type of person that turns up to picket a Jewish owned shop.

Less attention has been paid to the regular thursday evening anti-Israel picket outside Marks and Spencer on Oxford Street whose objective is to stop people shopping there on the basis that M&S was a chief funder of Israel’s creation and growth; proof if it ever was needed that Israel-hate is not premised on concern for international law but on Israel’s existence per se.

It is also interesting to note how many of the Ahava protesters are loathe to be filmed, constantly covering their faces.

One must also question if they are solely concerned about human rights why they don’t picket Iranian, Egyptian, Russian, Chinese and Sudanese businesses.

If Ahava does close even the protesters will be disappointed as they will be forced to find another Israeli outlet to vent their anger against.

Other low points of 2010 were:

1. The EDO case, where a judge somehow found it within himself, during his summing up to the jury, to show admiration for those who had smashed up a British arms-making factory.

2. Phil Woolas losing his Parliamentary seat after his Lib Dem opponent ran crying to the courts accusing Woolas of lying about him, when lying on political leaflets is, sadly, a part of British election culture. There was also MPAC’s sinister intervention against Woolas.

3. Mick Davies, head of UJIA, using “Apartheid” in relation to Israel.

4. The Law Society allowing itself to be taken over for a weekend Israel hatefest in the form of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

5. Hearing “Spurs are on their way to Auschwitz” at Elland Road.

Thank you to those that have given their encouragement over the last year (including Oyvagoy, Jeremy Havardi, MelchettMike, CIFWatch, ModernityBlog, Harry’s Place, ElderofZiyon, The London Jewish News, The Jewish Chronicle and The Jerusalem Post) and many other individuals, including some incredible commenters from whom I have learnt more than I could imagine.

It has also been a year in which England retained the Ashes but lost a World Cup.

Ken Bates, Leeds United’s Chairman, summed up the World Cup debacle perfectly in his recent programme notes for the QPR game:

“FIFA finally lost all credibility when they handed the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. That idiot Blatter said the object was to take football into new territories. The Qatar episode should be fun with the Persian Gulf on one side and (a) million square miles of desert on the other. Don’t make me laugh! Money talks – but to who? If Qatar wanted to make a lasting impact on the world they could help their fellow Muslims in Palestine to end 60 years of misery and enable them to establish a Palestinian state. A few bob to help rebuild Afghanistan wouldn’t go amiss either.”

Finishing on a high note Israel has just struck gas; £61 billion worth of the stuff, which sent the Tel Aviv stock exchange to an all time high. This should give Israel energy independence for 90 years and could allow for exports to Europe.

As James Hider of The Times comments the old joke about Moses leading the Jewish people to the one place in the Middle East that does not have oil is not so funny anymore.

Happy New Year everyone!

Judge Bathurst-Norman: The Opera

Gilbert and Sullivan’s hilarious Operetta Trial by Jury, first performed in 1875, mocks the pompous english legal system.

It is about Edwin who goes on trial in front of a jury for breaking off his engagement to Angelina. She has sued him from breach of promise of marriage after he went off with another woman.

The court usher advises the jury to set aside any “vulgar prejudice” they may have but then tells them to “observe the features of her (Angelina’s) face, the broken hearted bride”. He then refers to Edwin as the “ruffianly defendant”.

The jury duly takes an instant dislike to Edwin while Angelina looks sweet wearing her wedding dress.

The judge falls for Angelina instantly: “Oh, never, never, never, since I joined the human race, saw I so exquisitely fair a face.”

The jury also falls in love with Angelina: “We love you fondly, and would make you ours!”

The trial proceeds and Edwin puts his case succinctly saying that “it’s not in the range of belief, to look upon him as a glutton, who, when he is tired of beef, determines to tackle the mutton.”

Nevertheless, Edwin agrees to marry both his current lover and Angelina to atone for his sins.

The judge thinks this reasonable but when advised of its illegality he offers to marry Angelina himself.

His offer is accepted and everyone is happy.

The fun of this operetta is that it is so illogical because such bias would obviously never occur in a British court. Or would it?

Well, 135 years later it did.

In a recent court case seven defendants were put on trial for causing £180,000 of damage when they attacked the EDO arms factory in Brighton during Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza. They believed the factory supplied Israel.

They were acquitted when Judge Bathurst-Norman similarly fell for the charm of the defendants and also compared Israel to the Nazis. Here is the full transcript.

He said: “I am going to start with the background relating to Israel and Palestine and to the evidence which points to the war crimes being committed by Israel in Gaza, an area over which Israel has imposed a blockade. Now you have to look at the evidence coldly and dispassionately. It may be as you went through what I can only describe as horrific scenes, scenes of devastation to civilian population, scenes which one would rather have hoped to have disappeared with the Nazi regimes of the last war, you may have felt anger and appalled by them, but you must put that emotion aside.”

War crimes? Says who apart from the ill-informed Goldstone Panel that took evidence from residents of Gaza in open court with all the deadly repercussions that could entail if they told what Hamas didn’t like to hear.

Yes, there was dreadful loss of life during the fighting against Hamas but to compare this to the Nazis is crass.

And after this horrifically biased direction the judge then has the gall to tell the jury to “put that emotion aside”.

Bathurst-Norman would have done better to have saved the huge amounts of pubic time and expense of all the public bodies involved in this case and declared the defendants not guilty right at the beginning of the case.

For what it counts, Judge Bathurst-Norman has now been censured for his comments.

Although this will have little overall effect on the judge, and no effect on the defendants, it should stop this case being used as a precedent in future cases when other valid businesses have violence used against them.

Up until this reprimand there was the prospect of one’s political ideology being used as a successful defence in court.

Not so now.

Either you are guilty of aggravated trespass or conspiracy to commit criminal damage or you are not.

There is no room for political ideology in a court of law, unless, of course, you are in Iran.

But, hopefully, Iran we are not.

However, as a modicum of success as this might be, and full credit to Jonathan Hoffman and others who brought this case to the Lord Chancellor’s attention, there will be more legal battles to fight against those who choose to use violence in Britain to achieve political ends.

In the meantime we can all enjoy Judge Bathurst-Norman: The Opera.

The Judge (Leo Sheffield) in Trial By Jury (1926)

The Judge (Leo Sheffield) in Trial By Jury (1926)

Judge Bathurst-Norman in Trial By Jury (2010) (Daily Mail)

Judge Bathurst-Norman in Trial By Jury (2010) (Daily Mail)

Anti-Ahava activists cleared of all charges

ism-london.org.uk

ism-london.org.uk

Four anti-Israel activists were today cleared at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court of all charges after they locked themselves onto concrete-filled oil drums inside the Israeli-owned Ahava shop on Monmouth Street in London’s Covent Garden forcing it to close down for one day in September 2009 and another day in December 2009.

Taherali Gulamhussein, Bruce Levy, Tom Ellis and Ms Crouch, all from London, were found not guilty of failing to comply with a police officer’s orders to leave the shop (Ss.68&69 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994).

The activists insisted that they were legally justified in their actions as they claim the shop’s activities are illegal because the products on sale in the shop originate from Mitzpe Shalem, an Israeli settlement on the West Bank, and are deliberately mislabeled as “Made in Israel”.

Ms Crouch commented on the acquittal: “This is only a small victory in the wider campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. We’ll continue to challenge corporate complicity in the occupation and Israel’s impunity on the international stage.”

The website of the International Solidarity Movement states that on the first day of trial, prosecutors dropped aggravated trespass charges. This would have required the prosecution to demonstrate Ahava was engaged in lawful activity but, apparently, the CPS decided that this was not something they would attempt to prove.

And, according to the website, the Ahava store’s manager’s failure to testify contributed to the acquittals on all remaining charges.

The case also apparently hinged on a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) guidance to retailers:

“The Government considers that traders would be misleading consumers and would therefore almost be certainly committing an offence, if they were to declare produce from the OPT (including from the West Bank) as ‘Produce of Israel’. This would apply irrespective of whether the produce was from a Palestinian producer or from an Israeli settlement in the OPT. This is because the area does not fall within the internationally recognised borders of the state of Israel” (11 December 2009).

The activists were therefore found to have acted lawfully.

Another activist, Mr Matthews, said: “The message is clear. If your company is involved in apartheid and war crimes and occupying Palestinian land, people will occupy your shop.”

Sarah Colborne, of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said ‘it is the owners of Ahava who should be in court, not just for their role in helping to cement an unlawful occupation, but for violating the Fourth Geneva Convention by exploiting the natural resources of an occupied territory for profit.’

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.

In that case the defendants claimed they were trying to prevent the factory from making arms for Israel during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. But in his directions before dismissing them to consider a verdict Judge George Bathurst-Norman told the jury: “”You may think that hell on earth would not be an understatement of what the Gazans suffered at that time” and said of group leader Christopher Osmond: “The jury may feel his efforts investigating the company merit the George Cross.” The Crown Prosecution Service may still investigate these directions.

Numbers for next Saturday’s anti-Israel protest outside Ahava on Monmouth Street in Covent Garden from midday until 2pm are certain to be swelled after yet another triumph for anti-Israel activists in the UK.

(Another recent anti-Israel protest outside Ahava).