Café’s Israel boycott becomes PR disaster

A café owner has apologised for displaying a sign declaring “Jews are welcome”, saying it was a bid to allay fears that his boycott of Israeli goods could be interpreted as being antisemitic.

Chris Boddington said he was open about his boycott and support for the Palestine Solidarity Campaign at Café Crema in New Cross, south-east London. But he realised a boycott of Israeli produce could be equated with antisemitism.

The nearby Goldsmiths College owns the café and is Mr Boddington’s landlord. Many customers are Goldsmiths’ students or academics. In an attempt to reassure Jewish customers, Mr Boddington wrote on a blackboard: “We do not use any Israeli products. We are not antisemitic but anti-fascist. Jews are as welcome here as anyone else.”

He admitted it had backfired and constituted a substantial “PR cock-up”.

He said: “I wanted to make it clear we are not antisemitic. But people have taken it as me singling out Jews. I have said sorry. We do not want to exclude anyone. I am also well aware there are plenty of decent Israelis, but I do not believe they will dismantle the settlements and end the occupation.”

David Hirsh, a Goldsmiths’ lecturer and editor of the Engage website, which campaigns against academic boycotts of Israel, said: “Antisemitic ‘cock-ups’ follow the boycott campaign wherever it goes. Not because the boycotters are Jew-haters. But because the campaign to single out Israelis for exclusion is antisemitic.”

    Last updated: 11:30am, March 26 2009