Ahava finally closes its doors in London

By Jessica Elgot, September 27, 2011
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Two protagonists at one of the many demonstrations outside Ahava

Two protagonists at one of the many demonstrations outside Ahava

Cosmetics company Ahava is finally to close its controversial Covent Garden store this week, and manager Odelia Haroush said that the company had no plans to move elsewhere in the city, at least for the foreseeable future.

Demonstrations by pro-Palestinian activists have dogged the store for years. Protesters claim the products sold in the store are manufactured in a factory in Mitzpe Shalom, an Israeli settlement.

In April this year, a judge ruled that four activists who chained themselves to concrete blocks inside the Ahava shop were illegally trespassing. The four arged that Ahava was committing "war crimes" by selling products from the West Bank.

Owners of the surrounding stores in Seven Dials complained to the landlord Shaftesbury PLC that the repeated protests were affecting their business. A pro-Israeli group also held fortnightly counter- demonstrations, which attracted renewed controversy when members of the English Defence League turned up, unasked, and joined in the demonstrations in support of Ahava.

‘Ahava has done very little to help itself’

Shaftesbury PLC eventually refused to renew Ahava's lease.

Lawyer Anthony Julius of Mishcon de Reya, who is also chairman of the JC, confirmed that he had held preliminary discussions with Ahava about trying to seek an injunction against the protests, but he said that the company did not follow through.

It had been thought that the store would seek new premises in north London, but Ms Haroush now says they have no concrete plans to do so, despite telling the JC in March that it was very important to the Israeli company to have a presence in the UK. "It's not just about making money," she said.

Jonathan Hoffman, co-vice chair of the Zionist Federation, has led counter-demonstrations in support of the shop every fortnight for the last 15 months.

He said: "The closure of the shop is very bad news but it has to be said that Ahava has done little to help itself in the face of a sustained campaign of hate against it. Neither has there been any support from politicians for a legitimate business, which was hounded out of London, as if it were Berlin in the 1930s.

"The aim of the delegitimisers in the UK is nothing less than a complete eradication of Israeli-owned businesses and Israelis."

Last updated: 2:14pm, September 27 2011