- Created: Thursday, 07 October 2010 12:35
- Written by Fiona Donovan
In October 2000, days after the start of the second Palestinian Intifada, Manchester Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! joined with a group of Muslim students called Green Ribbon and students from Manchester University to picket Marks & Spencer because of its support for Zionism and its huge trade with Israel. London FRFI supporters quickly followed the example and set up a regular demonstration urging people to boycott M&S outside its flagship store on Oxford Street, Britain’s busiest shopping street. Since then, pickets of M&S have been held in Birmingham, Brighton, Dundee, Durham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leicester, Lincoln, Liverpool, Middlesborough, Newcastle, Nottingham, Rochdale, Stockton Stratford-Upon-Avon and other towns.
The demonstrators faced harassment from M&S, the police, local councils and Zionist organisations. In 2002 Manchester City Council attempted to close the picket down: two picketers were charged with obstructing the highway and affixing material to council property, but the pickets carried on. In December 2004 nine picketers were arrested and charged after defying a ban that the police issued for two weeks over the Christmas period using Section 14 of the Public Order Act. Manchester’s pickets were regularly attacked by Zionists in collusion with the police. In London, continuous attempts by Zionists to stop the Oxford Street pickets failed. However, in 2003 the police sent in the Forward Intelligence Team to try to frighten the picketers away and used the Public Order Act against the VTI demonstration. Two protestors were illegally arrested in April 2004 for using a megaphone after being ordered not to do so by the police. The charges were subsequently dropped.
FRFI has also organised Rolling Pickets taking in different shops selling Israeli or Caterpillar goods in London, Manchester and Newcastle and we have supported actions against Ahava and H&M and taken part in demonstrations against the EDO arms company.
Why Boycott M&S?
• Of all the British retail companies M&S has maintained the strongest and most long-standing support for Zionism and the state of Israel, not just with its trade but also with contributions to Zionist organisations such as World Ort.
• M&S supports Israel with over £200 million in trade every year, with the M&S brand socks, underwear and lingerie supplied mainly by Israeli textile giant Delta Galil (Corporate Watch, 2009). Israeli suit manufacturer Bagir ‘outfits 1 in 6 UK men, mainly through Marks and Spencer.” (Israel 21c, 28 April 2008).
• M&S buys dates from well-known illegal settlement exporter Hadiklaim, though this contract prohibits purchase from Palestinian Territories (Profundo 2009) and M&S stocks grapes, lychees, figs, plums, dates, fresh herbs, sweet potatoes and potatoes from Israeli state-owned Agrexco, another settlement exporter (Palestine Israel Ethical Shopping Initiative, 2008).
FRFI 217 October/November 2010