Zionists and racist EDL unite to counter Ahava protest

By Rose – ISM London

In celebration of the recent court victory in which four campaigners were acquitted for blockading the Covent Garden Ahava shop in 2009, approximately 60 protesters gathered outside its doors in Monmouth Street, central London, to celebrate and continue promoting boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli occupation. While demonstrators were met by the usual Zionist counter-demonstrators, on this occasion they arrived flanked by the openly racist English Defence League.

Ahava, the cosmetics retailer and spa outlet, manufactures its products on the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. It has openly flouted tax requirements by exploiting the EU-Israel trade agreement and violates UK DEFRA guidelines in respect of proper labeling. The campaign against Ahava supports the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions as a global nonviolent means to challenge the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and the ongoing siege upon Gaza.

At the outset the small group of around ten EDL members remained close to the Zionist contingent of Ahava supporters, handing out leaflets. Over the course of the demonstration they began to take an increasingly prominent role, culminating with the unfurling of a flag of St. George and chanting “E-E-EDL.” This was accompanied by racist remarks towards a number of Ahava protesters who were of Asian/Middle Eastern descent. What was more surprising, and unsettling, was the apparent unwillingness of the Zionist contingent to distance themselves from the EDL.

Vice chair of the Zionist Federation of Britain Jonathon Hoffman was present and took no action to put some distance between the two groups. This comes only days after a recent report in the Israeli paper Haaretz claiming that the Board of Deputies of British Jews were not affiliated with the EDL and did not want anything to do with them. The stark contrast between the formal statement and the reality in front of the Ahava shop, in which senior members of the ZF stood along side EDL members, undercuts any public statements and underlines the racism inherent in the Zionists’ agenda.

The EDL’s history of far right opinions and racist chanting and abuse — as well as their violence and hatred towards Muslim communities — have earned them a variety of unflattering labels, including ‘fascist’. Jewish groups have long since been targeted by right-wing, racist and fascist groups, so to see the Zionists and the EDL united against Palestinians illustrates that as far as the Zionist Federation is concerned, the enemy of one’s enemy may become an ally no matter what they stand for. That they were welcomed by the Zionists may be shocking to some, but might also be reflective of their desperation for support in the UK.

This is not the first instance of the two groups coming together in support of each other. In the immediate aftermath of the brutal attack on the Mavi Marmarra flotilla by Israeli commandos in which nine human rights activists were murdered, the EDL joined up with Zionists outside the Israeli embassy in Knightsbridge to show support for the Israeli state’s violent actions.  In addition, the EDL marched to Downing Street two weeks ago with Israeli flags being held alongside British and St. George flags.

Despite their presence and the racist slurs they shouted at members of the Ahava demonstration, the protest took place without violence.  The verbal abuse hurled by EDL members and their Zionist partners was met with a series of police cautions. Numerous members of the public stopped to chat with Palestinian solidarity activists and showed support. A small brass band played music to entertain the masses and build a celebratory spirit as many people chanted for justice and for an end to the sale of Israeli and Settlement produce.


17th August 2010


Since the publication of the original report, a few points have been raised which are felt important to incorporate.

1) In noting that the event passed without violence, it is important to recognise there was no explicit physical violence. Racism is a form of verbal violence and must be acknowleged as such. Similarly, although no physical violence took place, the EDL did threaten physical violence to at least two members of the Ahava protest.

2) Regarding police cautions: There were a total of five referals for prosecution to the Crown Prosecution Service for racially aggravated offences.

3) Where the Board of Jewish Deputies have sought to distance themselves from the EDL, this must not be confused with the lack of efforts by the Zionist Federation at the demonstration itself to do the same. The  two are distinct organisations and must be considered and treated as such.