With the Boycott and Divestment campaigns against Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine picking up steam, last week saw the acquittal of four activists who blockaded and shut down Ahava Cosmetics Store in Covent Garden.
The campaigners locked themselves onto concrete-filled oil drums inside the shop, closing it down for two days in September and December of 2009. Ahava now joins a group of companies such as Carmel Agrexco, EDO Corporation, Ratheon and Violia who have all been targeted and have lost billions in business for their complicity in war crimes.
The campaigners insist that they are legally justified in their actions as the shop’s activities are unlawful. All cosmetics on sale in the shop originate from Mitzpe Shalem, an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank, and are deliberately mislabelled “Made in Israel”.
To date, no campaigner has been successfully prosecuted and Ahava has consistently refused to cooperate with the prosecuting authorities.
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. Significantly, the CPS decided that this was not something they would attempt to prove.
The primary witness for the prosecution, Ahava’s store manager, refused to attend court to testify despite courts summons and threats of an arrest warrant leading to the activist’s acquittal on all remaining charges.
The Celebrations Continued on Saturday 14th August 2010 when activist from a variety of campaigns continued the fortnightly protests outside the store. These protests are supported by the Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, International Solidarity Movement, Boycott Israeli Goods and other notable Campaigning groups.
At the protest there was an atmosphere of revelry, music and celebration with information for passers by made available at the demonstrations and activsts used the slogan 'Stolen Goods from Stolen Lands'. Interestingly whilst Business was limited for Ahava During the protest I was able to observe the shop continue trading for a about an hour and a half after everyone had left the vicinity and no customers entered the shop during this time. Clearly the message is getting through to the modern consuming public who are educated in the facts and actively seeking out goods which are from sources who operate ethically. Notably the £48 price tag for a facial reduced from £60 as advertised on their sidewalk board seemed equally as murderous.
With little support or trade going on for Ahava on Saturday things looked bad for them. At Covent Garden, the racist English Defence League turned up in small numbers and Unfurled their Flag adorned with 'EDL Croydon Division' and joined a smaller group of Pro Zionists in a counter rally with a historically unusual Fascist Zionist Coalition. Whilst all in this group could have done with a facial none seemed to be overly cashed up enough to afford the products.
It was announced at the demonstration that Ahava are now being investigated by the Camden Trading Standards Officers. It can only be a matter of time before the high rents in the area match up with poor sales and the illegality of the business- providing a three way pincer movement which will see it close due to the protesters efforts.
Paul Hanes is managing director of Fourman Films.
Paul Hanes is a member of Counterfire who started Fourman Films in 2003 after his first feature documentary that year. He is an award winning film maker, active trade unionist and a prolific video blogger and citizen journalist. He has over 1,000 YouTube videos which form an historic and in depth record of the movement, often overlooked by the mainstream media.
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