Boycott of Israel widens in the UK

Activists have called for an arms embargo, a boycott against Israeli products and are planning a major lobbying event once parliamentart sessions resume

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Following mass demonstrations in London last month, Britons are vamping up their boycott of Israeli products in protest of the almost month-old conflict in the Gaza strip, Siraj Datoo wrote on entertainment and news website Buzzfeed.

Activists in the UK have staged protests inside supermarkets that sell Israeli products and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said it’s planning a national day of action on Saturday, during which activists will target stores that sell Sodastream products, a manufacturer of carbonated-drink machines headquartered in an Israeli settlement. Additionally, the London Palestine Action (LPA) has been active since the beginning of the conflict which began on July 8 and expanded into a ground offensive on July 17.

Apart from organising demonstrations, 15 members of the LPA marched into the reception of the Cabinet Office in London and demanded to speak to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg. After being met with refusal, some of them locked their necks to poles inside the office using bicycle locks. The rest held up signs calling for an arms embargo against Israel. The LPA claims the deputy PM’s recent statements demanding a halt to government military exports to Israel as a result of their sit-in.

As hostilities escalated in Gaza, the LPA put up a banner over Westminster Bridge, next to the House of Parliament, clearly visible to tourists and passersby, with the words: “UK: Stop arming Israel.”

“We’re not planning on stopping our actions, because the siege of Gaza still goes on,” Clare Essex, a spokeswoman for LPA told Buzzfeed.

“People can’t have medicine. The one power plant in the city has been destroyed. More than ever, we need to keep pushing that into people’s consciousness,” she added.

These actions are part of the Boycott Divestment and Solidarity movement (BDS) launched in 2005 by civil society groups for Palestine. The movement aims to garner worldwide support for Palestine through non-violent acts.

“This is perhaps the most significant impact of the conflict on the pro-Palestinian movement in the UK,” Datoo wrote.

In response to the resumption of hostilities following a three-day truce that failed to be renewed, the PSC said it will continue its activism. Chair Hugh Lanning said the campaign is planning a mass lobby on September 9 when members of parliament return to Westminster Palace as the summer recess comes to an end.

“There’s been a sea shift in opinion [on Gaza]” Lanning Lanning told BuzzFeed.

“It’s not just Baroness Warsi who cares,” referring to the Foreign Office minister who recently resigned over the government’s lack of action towards Gaza.

Following the surge of images and videos coming out of Gaza being circulated on social media, more people have been seeking information on what they can do to help, mainly by forwarding articles on Israeli-produced products. The boycott is not exclusive to made-in-Israel labels but has also encompassed companies affiliated with the Israeli army or contested Israeli settlements.

The BDS movement has gained momentum because it enables the average citizen to influence international politics, according to Nicola Pratt, a Warwick University professor who focuses on Middle Eastern politics and a longtime critic of Israel.

“The BDS movement is saying you should get involved because international politicians have clearly failed to bring peace to Israel and Palestine,” she is quoted saying in the article.

Pratt says that with every major conflict in Gaza, more people are made aware of the boycott, a realization supported by a spike for “Israel boycott” as shown by Google Trends.

While shopkeepers and retail assistants said they have been intimidated by activists whom they accused of shouting anti-Semitic remarks, police officers have stated that the protestors have been peaceful and have not come across anti-Semitic sentiment.

“We’ll keep taking action on the UK government arming Israel,” Essex stated, clarifying that the organization will continue to take action based on the BDS movement.

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