Protest Calling for Boycott of Marks & Spencer in Support of Palestine
Protesters outside the Oxford St Marks & Spencers called for a boycott of the store in support of Palestine on the 11th anniversary of the 'Second Intifada' and as Palestine calls on the UN to recognise it as a state. London, UK. 24th September 2011
Protesters outside the Oxford St Marks & Spencers called for a boycott of the store in support of Palestine on the 11th anniversary of the 'Second Intifada' and as Palestine asks the US to recognise it. London, UK. 24/09/2011
The Second Intifada or 'Al-Aqsa Intifada' started shortly after the failure of the Camp David Middle East Peace Summit between US President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Yasser Arafat in July 2000.
One of the several major issues on which the participants at Camp David could find no common ground was Jerusalem and the Temple Mount. Although Arafat was allegedly planning the Intifada prior to September 29th 2000, possibly in connection with the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state that he had abandoned a couple of weeks earlier, it was undoubtedly the visit to the Temple Mount, also the site of the Al-Aqsa mosque, by Likud party candidate for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the speech he made there that acted as the trigger for riots and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police and security forces. In the next five days, 5 Israelis and 47 Palestinians were killed and over 1800 Palestinians wounded.
In 2005, Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority, having run on a policy of peaceful negotiation and non-violence against Israel. The day before he was inaugurated, Ariel Sharon, now president of Israel, froze all contacts with Abbas, but a month later following international pressure the two men shook hands on a truce at Sharm el-Sheik, an event often regarded as the end of the Second Intifada.
The day following Mahmoud Abbas's request to the UN to recognise a Palestinian state on 23 September, a special demonstration outside the Oxford Street Marks & Spencer (M&S) marked the 11th anniversary of the Al-Aqsa Intifada.
There has been a regular weekly picket of this branch of M&S every Thursday evening for over ten years, starting shortly after the start of the Second Intifada in 2000, as well as pickets on Saturday lunchtimes. Although supported by other groups, including some Jewish groups whose supporters sometimes attend, the protest has been kept going over the years by 'Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!'
When I arrived shortly after the event had started there were around a dozen activists handing out leaflets, talking with people passing by, collecting signatures for a petition and running a literature stall. Banners, posters and leaflets made clear why they were demonstrating and calling for people to boycott M&S.
They state that M&S has the strongest and most long-standing support for Zionism of any British retail company, supporting Israel with £240 million of trade each year. They sell goods from illegal settlement exporters including Carmel Agrexco and Hadiklaim and are major outlets for socks, underwear and lingerie made by the major Israeli textile company Delta Galil and Israeli suit manufacturer Bagir.
M&S also give financial support to various Zionist social projects including World Ort, which supported Israel's war crimes in Gaza, and have received awards from Israel for their support.
The Palestinian Authority want the recognition of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, as demanded by Security Council resolution 242, made following the Six Day War. Unfortunately Israeli governments have so far proved unwilling or unable to restrain the settler movement in a manner that would make a settlement on this basis possible. Over 120 of the 193 countries currently in the UN already recognise Palestine.