The British city of Manchester is currently under siege from a pro-Palestinian mob protesting the existence of an Anglo-Israeli shop on one of the city’s most upmarket streets.
The shop under siege is Kedem, a store that sells cosmetics made from minerals extracted from the Israeli side of the Dead Sea. Kedem is not a political shop. It is a registered British company, paying British taxes. Nonetheless, Kedem is now the focus of the malignant boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. The pro-Palestinians have declared Kedem an “easy target.”
For two weeks Kedem has been subjected to a daily eight-hour-long siege. But Kedem’s products have nothing to do with Gaza or even with the “settlements” in the so-called West Bank. It is just a shop selling soap and exfoliating cream. When the protests first started, the shop was forced to shut for four days. But a large contingent of Israel supporters has come to the rescue. Day after day, Manchester’s Jewish community have turned out to support the shop and to oppose the pro-Palestinian protesters.
The pro-Palestinian contingent is mixed. There are Islamic fundamentalists (including one man who claims to be Hamas’ leader in Britain), anarchists, hardcore leftists, self-styled peace activists, Pakistani gangsters, Jews for Justice for Palestinians and even Druids. Many of these people are already known to Greater Manchester Police, who have seen the same faces at anti-fracking demonstrations.
The protesters love to chant anti-Israel slogans. “One, two, three, four, occupation no more” is a particular favourite. “Palestine will be free, from the river to sea” is another. Pro-Israel supporters are regularly subjected to accusations of murder, baby killing, genocide, ethnic cleansing. One of my Jewish friends was told he was “not a Jew but a Nazi.”
Insults like “dirty Jewish pig” and “ZioNazi thugs” are commonplace. And yet the protesters continue to insist they are not anti-Semitic.
According to the BDS fanatics, it is not anti-Semitic to boycott a Jewish-owned shop. But we remind them that Jewish shops were targeted in the 1930s. But they don’t listen. They don’t care that Jews in Britain are genuinely afraid of where this situation is heading. For example, five cars full of men drove through a Jewish residential district in Manchester waving Palestinian banners and shouting anti-Semitic remarks including “Heil Hitler.”
Despite the hatred emanating from the pro-Palestinians, the Jewish community has been galvanized. Jews of all creeds – from atheists to Hasids – have come together to support Kedem and the State of Israel. On some days we have managed to outnumber the opposition. Plus, our speakers are much more eloquent (and often louder). Many Jews and non-Jews have stepped up to the microphone to make the case for Israel. Our arguments are cogent, intelligent and respectful. On many occasions we have drowned out the opposition. Indeed, the pro-Palestinian side seems to have been taken aback by the strength of Jewish support for both Kedem and Israel.
A former film maker from Canada is lending his support to the Israeli contingent. His name is David Semple and he is currently writing a book about Jerusalem. David is a righteous gentile. He is passionate about Israel, Judaism and the Jewish people. He has a thorough knowledge of Middle East affairs and history. David’s speeches are utterly brilliant and they seem to have had a demoralising effect on the opposition. One policewoman told me she had learnt a lot about Israel’s history thanks to David.
Another encouraging factor is the support of the public. I’ve had Jews and gentiles who work and/or shop in Manchester offering their support. American tourists have congratulated us for our efforts. On the other hand, some members of the public have accused us of “having blood on our hands.” One man called us “animals” and “scum.”
As well as making the case for Israel, we try very hard to highlight the hypocrisy of the boycotters. It is all too easy to boycott an innocent shop that sells soap but why don’t the protestors discard their USB flash drives and instant messaging software which were both invented in Israel? Why don’t they throw away their laptops and computers which are powered by Israeli Intel processors? Why continue to use Microsoft Office, Windows XP and Windows Vista when they were invented by Microsoft Israel? We tell them to stop using Google because Google uses an advanced text search algorithm invented by an Israeli student.
We remind them that mobile phones, voice mail and the mobile camera function were all invented in Israel. But the BDS fanatics either don’t believe us or don’t care. One protester said he didn’t want to throw away his Smart phone because he needed it to ring his mum and dad. Do such people know the meaning of the word hypocrisy?
We ask them why they single out Israel for criticism whilst ignoring the fact that Israel is a democracy where one in five citizens are Arabs who have the right to vote and sit in the Israeli parliament. We ask them why they support Hamas when they use their own people as human shields and spend millions of dollars of aid money building terror tunnels. Their response: outright denial.
We admit that Israel isn’t perfect, just like the UK or France isn’t perfect. But constantly demonizing Israel –whilst ignoring the massacres in Iraq and Syria or the exploitation of workers in India and China – isn’t constructive criticism. It is racism.
Kedem is tired of being an easy target. The Jewish people are sick of being intimidated and abused. But after thousands of years of persecution, Jews are no longer prepared to be led like lambs to the slaughter. And as long as this horrible situation continues we will do all we can to support Kedem and the State of Israel, even if it means standing outside a soap shop for eight hours a day.