There is a whiff of Weimar in the air in Britain. Barely a week now passes without some further denigration caused by anti-Semitic, sorry, pro-Palestine demonstrators targeting businesses run by Jews/stores selling products produced by the Jewish state. You know, like Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Marks and Spencer, Starbucks and so on. Most of this fairly random targeting of whatever business sounds a bit Jewish goes unnoticed. Sometimes protestors manage to get the business closed – as with the Ahava store in liberal, enlightened Brighton. Generally they just succeed in intimidating shoppers and making it easier for people to shop elsewhere in some non-Semitic store.
Sometimes the protestors, like this young man in Manchester, are open about their feelings and taunt any nearby Jews by telling them, for instance, how highly they think of Hitler (‘I love Hitler. I’m big on my boy Hitler’ says this nicely integrated young man):
But mainly they just try to persuade people that the Jews are in fact the Nazis, rather than the Nazis being the people who are, once again, trying to boycott Jewish businesses (including businesses which aren’t Jewish but are suspected of being, in some way sort of Jew-y).
I know, I know, they’re meant to only be objecting to goods produced in the West Bank. But somehow it always ends up with being any product at all from Israel and then – surprise, surprise – any product made for or by Jews. Take just one recent case.
Here is the frontbench Labour MP Shabana Mahmood, the Labour party’s shadow exchequer secretary, speaking at a ‘Pro-Palestine’ rally the weekend before last. After the ‘Salaam alaikum’ intro (a greeting of peace, funnily enough) Ms Mahmood calls on the crowd to join the boycott movement. As a demonstration of her own commitment this nice young firebrand reported how she herself, only the previous weekend, had taken part in ‘direct action’ with a group of 200 ‘activists’ in the centre of Birmingham:
‘We lay down inside Sainsbury’s to say that we object to Sainsbury’s stocking goods from the illegal settlements and that they must stop. We managed to close down that store for five hours at peak time on a Saturday.’
Woo-hoo! Big it up for the Sainsbury’s protest massive. Against such a force the groceries never stood a chance.
Of course Ms Mahmood subsequently got overtaken by the zeal of her own mob. This weekend the targets of the protests included Tesco in Hodge Hill, Birmingham. There the ‘activists’ decided to go into the store just like the member for Birmingham Ladywood had done. But they took things a little further, got a bit carried away and started smashing stuff up. So far as I know products like Coca-Cola are not made in the West Bank or anywhere else in Israel, but it becomes so hard to tell once the mist descends. And isn’t America in Israel’s pocket or something like that? And so the mob in Birmingham threw around Coca-Cola crates, among much else, and assaulted a nearby police officer. As one eyewitness put it:
‘I was just in the Tesco in Hodge Hill, scanning my items and I heard chanting. Then a group of Asian men holding Palestinian flags came walking in and starting to push products over and getting aggressive with staff and shoppers. Police officers tried to stop them but I ran out.’
Mahmood has of course issued a mealy-mouthed, arse-covering statement about this. But she and these nice, politically engaged young men have been more successful than they could possibly have hoped. For yesterday it transpired that:
‘A central London branch of one of Britain’s biggest food stores, Sainsbury’s, has admitted emptying its kosher food shelf after the manager feared anti-Israeli protesters outside would attack it, the supermarket giant has said.
‘Meats, cheeses and sauces were removed from a Sainsbury’s Local branch in Holborn, central London, as it was picketed by demonstrators who were calling on the grocer to boycott Israeli goods.
‘The incident yesterday afternoon happened on the same day anti-Israeli activists ‘wreaked havoc’ at a Birmingham branch of Tesco when a demonstration got out of hand.
‘Actor Colin Appleby took a photo of the empty shelf, prompting uproar online as hundreds condemned the grocer for appearing to succumb to the demands of the protesters.
‘People also pointed out that many of the goods were not from Israel and instead came from nations including Britain and Poland.
‘Mr Appleby wrote that a staff member defended the decision by stating: ‘We support Free Gaza’.’
So there we are. Britain in 2014.
Of course this wouldn’t happen to any other foodstuff. If, say, some BNP types decided to go into a supermarket and smash up the Halal food section because it was made by or for Muslims then airwaves would be full of people objecting, Jews most prominent among them. But it looks like the UK Jewish leadership is starting to go quiet. One week it’s a theatre refusing to host a Jewish film festival. The next it’s a supermarket refusing to stock Jewish food. No wonder a majority of British Jews polled for this week’s Jewish Chronicle said they could not see any Jewish future in Britain.