Israeli flower exporters claimed Valentines Day victory Wednesday following a two-day demonstration by anti-Israel activists attempting to disrupt Israeli produce from leaving the UK headquarters of Carmel-Agrexco.
Last weekend activists gathered, some chaining themselves to the gates of the factory, to try and stop the distribution of fresh Israeli flowers in the UK for Valentines Day.
Tom Hayes, spokesman for the Boycott Israeli Goods campaign (BIG), said: “Before taking part in this action many of the defendants had witnessed first hand the suffering of Palestinian communities under the brutal Israeli occupation.
They do not accept the UK’s complicity in the illegal occupation of Palestine and see the presence of this company as a violation of human rights.”
The BIG was set up by the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, a pro-Palestinian, often anti-Israel lobby group, and calls for a blanket boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel.
Amos Orr, general manager of Carmel-Agrexco UK, told The Jerusalem Post that there were no disruptions and all consignments reached their destinations safely.
On Saturday protesters came at 1pm and left at 4pm.
He said: “Firstly they came on the quietest day of the week, secondly we knew in advance that they were coming, they had advertised it over two months ago on various websites, so we simply arranged for deliveries to be sent out in the morning.”
“Trucks that came later were able to make it though as the police simply moved the protesters aside,” he added.
“On Sunday around 15 activists came, there was no activity, the police came and arrested a few and it was all over within an hour and a half.”
Hayes told the Post: “The purpose of the protest was to get a large number of people to come to the depot to spread the word and show companies that profit from the occupation. He maintained that they were able to disrupt deliveries on Sunday for “several hours”.
“Our actions were a success,” he said. “The protest caused disruption during the busiest weekend. Many more people are aware of Carmel-Agrexco and we showed that we’re not going to sit by while companies profit from apartheid.”
On the groups website, they are alerting people to “ask your local florist where their flowers come from” and to “check their flowers don’t have a barcode ending 7290” [which shows it is an Israeli product]. The alert continues: “If your local florist sells Israeli flowers arrange a local picket and send reports to email@example.com”.
Meanwhile a new Jewish group has emerged to support BIG. Deborah Fink a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) has set up Jews for Boycott of Israel Goods (J-BIG).
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Fink said: “I wanted to do more on the boycott and wanted JfJfP to do it but couldn’t push them into doing it so in the end I started my own group and agreed last month to join up with BIG.”
“I have about 30 signatories which I know sounds small but we have only just started. Most are from but there are some also from Jews against Zionism and some Israelis such as Moshe Machover [a socialist anti-Zionist Israeli based in London], who is a founding member and we have support from Jeff Halper [Israel Committee against House Demolitions]
In the group’s mission statement sent to the Post, it says: “We are a group of British and Israeli Jews resident in the UK who have come together in this 40th year of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land to support the BIG campaign.
“In 1967, the Israeli army took military control of the Golan, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Since that time the government of Israel has built settlements, roads and other infrastructure for its Jewish citizens, using land and resources stolen from the Palestinian people. This situation continues, unchallenged by Western governments, despite Israel’s being in violation of international humanitarian law and over 60 UN resolutions.
“Israel daily destroys Palestinian lives, livelihoods and homes; it continues to build its illegal colonies and separation wall on stolen land; it continues to control Gaza while slicing the West Bank into Bantustans, separating Palestinian families from their schools, places of work and agricultural land; it denies Palestinian refugees their right to return and operates a form of racism in many respects worse than the South African apartheid system. Its policies of intimidation and humiliation aim to destroy Palestinian hopes of statehood. Israeli businesses export freely from Palestinian land while the Palestinian economy is on its knees as a result of the occupation.
“We believe that this constitutes a betrayal of the best trends in Jewish ethical tradition. It inflames hatreds in our unstable world and renders impossible the achievement of a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians. We therefore support the existing campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions to enforce Israeli compliance with international law.
“We call on those of our fellow Jews who are inclined to support the State of Israel unconditionally to think critically about what Israel does in our names. We call on every ethical consumer, of any faith or none, to refuse to support the Israeli economy for as long as the illegal occupation and exploitation of Palestine persists.”
Asked why a blanket boycott, Fink said: “I can see the point of a settlement boycott, it makes a strong political point but hard to know what was made in settlements and this is a grass roots action it way the ordinary person can put pressure on Israel, as the governments aren’t. Can’t tell people to ask in a store if a product is made in Ma’ale Adumim. The occupation doesn’t happen by itself, Israel is occupying Palestine and also they invaded Lebanon.”
When asked if this was collective punishment which would hurt the peace camp in Israel, she said: “I don’t think it will affect them much anyway. I don’t think you can affect the Israeli economy anyway as America supports it. Really it’s symbolic [their campaign], I don’t think it will stop people buying Israeli goods.”
She continued: “What we hope to do is do for the boycott movement what JfJfP did for the solidarity movement. It’s also to tell Jews that what Israel is doing is wrong. What Israel is doing is going against Jewish ethics, uprooting olive trees is against Jewish law.”
Last November JfJfP dissociated the group from comments Fink made on an anti-Zionist blog in which she said: “Israel does not deserve to be called ‘the Jewish state’. It should be called ‘the Satanic state’. I really don’t see the point of doing anything else other than boycott it in every possible way.”
Dan Judelson, chair of JfJfP, said her comments were “incompatible” with her responsibilities within the group.
He told the Jewish Chronicle: “Deborah Fink is not a member of the newly elected executive committee of JfJfP,” he stated. “As such, she speaks only for herself.”
Last July JfJfP sparked furor in the community after they organized an advertisement in The Times signed by more than 300 British Jews condemning Israeli actions in Gaza following the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit.