Boycott targets kosher shops

By Leon Symons and Simon Rocker, February 19, 2009

Moves to boycott Israeli goods have taken a turn described as “sinister” with the publication of a 68-page report ‘outing’ companies and individuals that sell goods from West Bank settlements.

The report, published by the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, has been condemned by Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies, as “sinister and misleading”.

One of the report’s key sources is a known pro-Hizbollah website, Innovative Minds.

The report identifies small local companies, including Titanics delicatessen in Manchester and butchers Just Kosher in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire and Kelman’s Meats in Wembley, north London. Israeli companies are also named, including Agrexco and Arava. And there is reference to a property deal involving a company run by businessman Leo Noé.

The report also contains the names and addresses of non-Jewish businesses which deal with Israel.

Richard Hyman of Titanics said: “I am very proud that we have been named. I am most definitely not ashamed of selling Israeli products.”

Yeshaya Hotter of Just Kosher expressed his worry that “this report has named so quickly the smaller outlets like us. It has gone from identifying production plants in Israel and located them to small retailers like us in England. A lot of kosher food comes from Israel and we want to give both our Jewish and non-Jewish customers the widest choice.”

The report covers a number of areas, including fruit and vegetables, other food products, drinks, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, plastics, metal and textile products.

It was commissioned by the Sir Joseph Hotung Research Programme at SOAS and prepared by a Dutch company, Profundo.

Jeremy Newmark, chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, commented: “We warned the government that promoting sanctions against ‘settlement goods’ would encourage those pressing for a full boycott of Israel — this confirms our fears.

“Worse still, support for this boycott has seamlessly become an attack on Jewish companies and individuals here in Britain. The targeting of kosher shops takes us into very disturbing territory.”

A spokeswoman for the Sir Joseph Hotung Research Programme said that its work concentrates exclusively on legal aspects of the Israel-Palestine conflict. While this subject was not necessarily in its remit, it decided to gather and publish the information.

There were also new moves this week against Boots the Chemist after claims by the Boycott Israel Goods (BIG) campaign that the company was seeking commercial tie-ups with Israeli franchises, such as New Pharm. There have been demonstrations outside a number of Boots stores.

The boycott campaign took a further turn this week with calls for two British museums to cancel Israel Day of Science events due to take place next month. The days are designed to showcase the scientific achievements of seven Israeli universities.

As well as leading scientific figures from Britain, representatives of the Israeli universities are coming over to run sessions on subjects such as solar energy, cancer research and water desalination.

The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (Bricup), which calls for an academic boycott, urged protests against the events, organised by the Zionist Federation, at the Science Museum in London and the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.

But a statement on behalf of the Science Museum said the day would be “going ahead as a normal commercial corporate hire booking. The event is scientific, non-political and aimed at the educational sector.”

A letter in Monday’s Guardian, signed by 382 people including Bricup secretary Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, said that the universities were “complicit in the Israeli occupation and in the policies and weaponry so recently deployed to such disastrous effect in Gaza”.

David Passig, head of Bar Ilan University’s virtual reality laboratory, who is participating in the museum events, said he found the boycott call “mind-boggling”.

He added: “We were raised to believe that science is without any politics. It is so hard for us to understand the logic of what these people are thinking.

“When you start [with this], there is no end to it. In 20 years, things may be different and other people may try boycotting British scientists.”

    Last updated: 10:58am, February 19 2009