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.
"You cannot simplify the question of violence.. You look at human history - the American revolution, the civil war, the end of slavery in the United States, the African National Congress, the end of colonialism - by and large these were some combination of popular social uprisings and social movements and non-violent protests AND armed resistance. Now that doesn't mean I'm advocating for any armed action today, I'm not. I'm committed to finding ways of acting and speaking and making people laugh and doing art and disrupting the war machine in other ways, but I think focusing on violence when we have the comfort of being protected by mass of armed violence is not non-violence at all.. if you are pointing to the mass of violence and who's doing the mass of violence in the world today, you have to look to state violence - that's people bombing whole cities from the air.. "