Thirty anti-Israel protesters congregated outside Ahava in Covent Garden for two hours on Sunday handing out leaflets and singing anti-Israel slogans. There was, as ever, a small counter-demonstration.
The incessant chants of “Israeli mud, Palestinian blood” disturb adjacent shop-owners and residents who might now ask Ahava’s landlords not to renew Ahava’s lease.
Obviously this is unfair. The protests, that take place every two weeks now, have nothing to do with Ahava. It is a perfectly legitimate business that provides a valid service to a strong customer base.
The protesters handed out leaflets sponsored by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Boycott Israeli Goods that call for the banning of “illegal settlement produce”. International Solidarity Campaign is also an organiser.
But as with all of these protests, it isn’t really about settlement produce.
An organisation called “Boycott Israeli Goods” gives away the true nature of the protests and when you start speaking to the protesters the settlements are the last thing they mention.
They talk of the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Arabs from Israel in 1948, the seige of Gaza and the supposedly awful treatment of Palestinian Israelis.
As for the latter I am sure that there is much more than Israel can do to alleviate poor conditions for many of the 1.2 million Palestinian Israelis that live inside Israel.
But many of them do very well economically and enjoy all social freedoms. Such freedoms they could only dream of if they lived under other Arab governments, including a Palestinian one. Recently, Islamic extremists destroyed a United Nations summer camp for children in Gaza.
As for “ethnic cleansing” I am still trying to get my head around the arithmetic of how 600,000 Jews could possibly ethnically cleanse 750,000 Palestinians while fighting both them and the invading armies of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon.
And as for the siege, the protesters forget that it is enforced by Egypt also. Most Israelis are unhappy with such a “siege” but know the tragic consequences of allowing Hamas to appropriate imported materials meant for the people of Gaza. This would allow Hamas to quickly replenish its deadly stock of Kassam rockets.
Even the leaflets the protesters hand out make no pretence that this is only about settlement produce.
The leaflets state: “This call for a ban on illegal settlement produce is part of a campaign to boycott all Israeli goods until Israel abides by international law and respects human rights.”
So now, it seems, anyone can find a political issue they are passionate about and harrass a legitimate business connected with that issue just to make a point. If Ahava closes, which now seems quite possible, people will lose their jobs and livelihoods.
Ahava’s manager came out towards the end of the protest to speak to the protesters and to explain this point but, as polite as they were, they just explained back to her that she is “an innocent bystander in all this” and that “there’s a far bigger cause at stake”.
Would these self-styled “peace activists” stand outside a Palestinian owned business protesting Hamas’ atrocities against not just innocent Israeli civilians but Palestinian opposition activists? “Of course,” they claim, “we don’t support Hamas but the Palestinians have a right to elect who they wish.”
But electing a government doesn’t mean that government has the right to fire thousands of Kassam rockets into Israel and summarily execute its own people.
The PSC’s patrons are: Jenny Tonge, Tony Benn, Victoria Brittain, Julie Christie, Caryl Churchill, Jeremy Corbyn, Bob Crow, William Dalrymple, Reverend Garth Hewitt, Dr Ghada Karmi, Bruce Kent, Karma Nabulsi, Illan Pappe and Benjamin Zephaniah.
However much these people disagree with Israel’s policies, and even its very existence, surely the likes of Socialists Tony Benn and Bob Crow must be able to see the injustice of bullying a legitimate business in order to close it down with the consequent loss of jobs. Maybe just not when it comes to Israeli workers.
Section 11 of the Human Rights Act emphasises the right to peaceful assembly but what takes place outside Ahava is not peaceful. Shoppers quickly pass Ahava and the adjacent shops and restaurants to avoid the terrible noise. Takings of all businesses in the vicinity are down.
And who would wish to walk into a shop like Ahava that is flanked by four police officers and a security guard there to stop the inevitable invasion that would take place if they were absent (as happened on the first occasion these protesters turned up outside Ahava)?
Sadly, Britain is a society that protects the human rights of suspected al-Qaida terrorists more than those of employers and employees wishing to earn a living here.