Swedish clothes retailer H&M has been busy lately. As well as opening new stores across Israel, a new store was unveiled in Brixton on Thursday.
Palestinians were driven from al-Malha, the site of the new Jerusalem store, by settlers in 1948 and the aggressive ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem continues to this day. The opening of this store and five others in Israel violates the unified Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until the occupation ends, Palestinian citizens of Israel receive equal rights and the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to the land from which they have been forced out is realised. The store openings tie H&M to a clear political position – support for Israeli defiance of international law.
Given H&M’s complicity in Israel’s violations of international law and human rights, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) called a protest at opening of the new Brixton store.
Over 15 activists formed a strong picket line outside the store and were very pleased at the conversations had with passers-by and those going in to the shop.
Five protesters entered the shop itself and unfurled a huge Palestinian flag. One read out a statement detailing and explaining H&M’s contributions to Israeli abuses and we were able to chant for several minutes and hand out a good number of leaflets before being physically removed from the store. The activists had put on some of H&Ms clothes to make it harder for them to be evicted from the shop, as the clothes had to be removed from the protesters before they were evicted, and were in the store for at least twenty minutes.
The lively picket continued for another hour, as did the great outreach with shoppers. Many were keen talk to the activists present and find out more about Israeli impunity and we certainly ruined the opening day for management. The action in Brixton comes hot off the heels of fantastic mass actions that have taken place in in Paris and Brussels; a clear message has been sent to H&M.
As this action and the continued campaign against Ahava shows, taking action against high street shops that support the Israeli regime – in line with the unified Palestinian call for BDS against Israel and its supporters – is a visible and effective form of protest.
"Everywhere we went (in Gaza) the same question was on every body's lips - 'You are here but where are the Arabs?' One little girl said to me 'where is this Arab world that they teach us about in school? Where is this Ummah that they talk to us about on Fridays? Why did they leave us alone?'. That's what she said to me, with tears in her eyes 'why did they leave us alone?' I had to turn my face away from her when she said it, and I'm not an Arab, I had to turn away.. I couldn't face her in the face of such a question.."