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 Ė support for Israeli defiance of international law.
Given H&Mís complicity in Israelís 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&Mís 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 Ė in line with the unified Palestinian call for BDS against Israel and its supporters Ė is a visible and effective form of protest.
"Its important to choose a strategy that doesn't end up diverting attention from the issue.. the other side wants nothing more than to divert attention from what the record shows, what the human rights record shows, what the UN record and so forth - they don't want to talk about that because once they start talking about that they loose. They'd rather talk about anti-Semitism, the Nazi holocaust - anything accept Israel and Palestine. With that in mind you have to be careful that you don't embark on a tactic which is going to end up diverting people from Israel-Palestine.. You don't' want to choose grey areas, you always want to choose black and white areas where there is no room for discussion, where there is no room for debate. This is black and white: World Court decision [wall and settlements illegal] 14 to 1. Human rights issues - Amnesty says Israel tortures, Human Rights Watch says Israel tortures, B'Tselem says Israel tortures, everyone says it - its black and white. And the other side has to end up with some ridiculous proposition as Professor Dershowitz put it 'they're all lying'."