On 11th October 2009, a swarm of activists descended upon Sainsbury’s on Cromwell Street, West London to highlight the sale of Israeli and illegal Settlement produce by both Sainsbury’s and other major supermarket chains. Coming from a diverse range of campaign organisations, around 40 activists stood in solidarity with the Palestinian call for a global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.
Enterring the store, protestors held up an array of settlement and Israeli produce demanding that the supermarkets put a halt to their sale and reminding consumers of their capacity to effect change by not buying these goods.
Popping up a tent and claiming it to be an “Israeli Settlement”, the actions demonstrated the ridiculous ease at which Israeli Settlements pop up around the West Bank, protected by the military and evicting Palestinians from their land and homes.
They proceded to chant against the occupation and the sale of Israeli goods, following this they went on a tour of the store so that all staff and customers were made aware of Sainsbury's role in supporting illegal settlements. Handing out leaflets and engaging with customers, many of which were supportive, the actions communicated the need for greater citizen action.
Management and security were keen to encourage the protestors to leave but with no success. After twenty minutes within the store, demonstrators left of their own accord, clapping hands and chanting "Free Free Palestine", feeling that their efforts had been succesful in communicating to the store and the general public.
Police arrived soon after and despite a brief interaction with protestors there were no arrests and no signs of aggression.
Activists then left the scene and were followed for some time afterwards, however no further action by the police was taken.
This non-violent initiative seeks to challenge the economic and political infrastructure that supports the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Similar to the efforts against Apartheid South Africa, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign hopes to undermine the apartheid in the West Bank and Gaza whereby checkpoints, Israel only roads and the Apartheid all segregate and impoverish Palestinians. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, over 60% of Palestinians live below the poverty line, and in Gaza the figure sits at 70%.
Illegal Israeli Settlement produce is on sale in most of the high street supermarket chains, including Tesco’s, Morrisons, Waitrose, Marks and Spencers, and Asda as well as Sainsbury’s. According to the 2004 judgement by the International Court of Justice, Settlements are illegal and in violation of the Fourth Geneva Conventions. Sale of produce from these Settlements reinforce their existence and financially contribute to Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and violent oppression of Palestinians themselves.
This mass action follows a number of smaller protests that have taken place across in London and across the UK which make explicit public opposition to the sale of Settlement goods in British stores. It also follows the September 2009 decision by the Trade Union Congress to commit to building a mass boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.