The shop protest no one bought

Demonstrators outside Waitrose in Swiss Cottage, North-West London, with Alexei Sayle (far right)

Demonstrators outside Waitrose in Swiss Cottage, North-West London, with Alexei Sayle (far right)

Protesters from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign received a cool reception this week as they appealed for shoppers to boycott goods produced in West Bank settlements.

Ten protestors, including comedian Alexei Sayle, carried placards and handed out leaflets outside a branch of Waitrose supermarket in Finchley Road, North West London, on Monday.

They accused the company of "aiding and abetting war crimes" by selling settlement products. But when Mr Sayle handed a letter to the store manager, he was told to talk to head office. And despite the shouts, shoppers hurried past them into the store.

Earlier this month the Israeli and British governments clashed following complaints from the UK Revenues and Customs, which claimed that Israeli companies were labelling products, especially fruit and vegetables grown on West Bank settlements, as originating inside the 1967 borders. The Foreign Office demanded that Israel identify settlement products more clearly.

A variety of herbs sold by Waitrose are labelled as being of "West Bank" origin. The packets are sold next to other herbs from Israel. Waitrose said it labels herbs' country of origin although not legally required to do so and has a "rigorous" selection process when sourcing products.

At the start of the protest, Mr Sayle said the sale of settlement goods was "sadistic" and one of "thousands of ways Israel oppresses Palestinian people". But when asked about his views on Waitrose's role, he replied: "You would have to ask them [the other protesters]. I don't know. I hate doing this sort of thing. I look like a bit of a d**k, but I'm suffering for the cause."

Mr Sayle left shortly afterwards.

    Last updated: 2:56pm, November 27 2008