Israeli produce removed from a Tesco supermarket. (Photo: Nancy Kiousi)
On Saturday, February 23rd activists in London staged multiple boycott actions and a protest at the Israeli Embassy in support of the Palestinians in Al-Khalil (Hebron). In solidarity with the people in Hebron and the Open Shuhada Street movement, London shops got a taste of the occupation. Activists imposed symbolic closures on shops that sell Israeli produce, made in the occupied West Bank, upholding the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). By recreating Shuhada street the activists raised awareness for Al-Khalil and urged people of conscience to boycott all Israeli products until it complies with international human rights law.
Protest at Whole Foods (Photo: Nancy Kiousi)
Israeli products were removed from the shelves, leaving behind a notice to inform shoppers and staff that ‘this product was removed because it was made on stolen land’. At the same time, a checkpoint was set up at the entrances of the shops, and hundreds of leaflets were given to passers by.
Amongst the shops that were targeted was Whole Foods, a brand that boasts of its ethical sourcing, but recently started selling SodaStream products, which are made in one of the fastest growing illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Ma’ale Adumim. Activists asked Whole Foods to remove SodaStream from their shop and encouraged shoppers to express their concern about the store’s ethical standards. Tesco and Argos were also targeted for selling Israeli produce which finances the illegal occupation of Palestine.
Protest outside the Israeli embassy (Photo: Nancy Kiousi)
Later in the afternoon a protest was held outside the Israeli embassy in London, calling for an end to the occupation, and system of apartheid, as well as the opening of Shuhada Street in Al-Khalil. Protesters set up a replica of the wall that Israel has built in the West Bank in front of the embassy and raised Palestinian flags.
At the Israeli embassy (Photo: Nancy Kiousi)
Al-Khalil is a city located in the south of the West Bank which has witnessed an extreme escalation of violence and oppression during the last two decades. In 1994 an armed Jewish settler, Baruch Goldstein, entered the Ibrahimi Mosque and opened fire on Palestinians during the Friday prayers, killing 29 people and injuring more that 120. Since then the city has seen dramatic increase of aggression by Israeli extremists, including violent attacks, destruction of Palestinian property and forced evictions of families whose property is then taken over by illegal settlers.
Following the massacre at the Mosque, the Israeli military closed the center of the city for allPalestinians, notably closing down Shuhada Street, which used to be the center of the Old City and a lively market. More than 600 Palestinian shops were forced to close by the Israeli military in Shuhada St, which remains a ghost street to this day. Palestinians are now prohibited from using a number of streets in Al-Khalil and a number of military checkpoints are established to control their access to the old city, making ordinary tasks, such as daily shopping, extremely difficult. Palestinian residents must travel extremely long distances on foot in order to use permitted routes and they are routinely delayed, harassed and refused entry at checkpoints.
Every year, in commemoration of the massacre at the mosque, Palestinians hold their big demonstration against the occupation, demanding the opening of Shuhada Street and the end of the Israeli apartheid. This year they held a big demonstration on Friday, 22 February, which was met with violent oppression. The Israeli occupying forces attacked the protesters with huge quantities of tear gas, skunk water, stunt grenades, rubber-coated-bullets and live ammunition, leading to a number of injuries, including one person who was shot in the leg with a live round and had to be admitted to hospital.