Best of Luckon a Bright, Breezy Day

I arrived at John Lewis for the fortnightly action against SodaStream having had the usual fear beforehand that nobody would turn up.  As usual I was wrong and at least a dozen people (and a dog) arrived to show the world that we support human rights for the people of Palestine.

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Due to a mixup we didn’t have our ‘Disappearing Palestine’banner, but, being a flexible lot, somebody had brought along some laminated placards with the same graphic on some of them in addition to one or two others which showed, for instance, an Israeli soldier pointing his machine gun at a group of schoolgirls waiting behind a barrier trying to get to school in Al Khalil (Hebron).  Another enterprising member of our group brought along her own placard which she was able to wear round her neck whilst giving out postcards.

 

We also had one or two visitors who came to see us.  One was a lovely young American who is studying at Oxford University and who wanted to interview some of us for the project she is doing on the topic of protest.  Another was an excellent American graphic designer who has done some brilliant work for Palestine solidarity in the past and it appears that she will be spending some time in the UK, so lucky us!

 

As is usually the case, the majority of people were receptive and took our postcards, some wanted to talk, some came and asked for a postcard and some simply walked by; and as is always the case when the beautiful dog called Freddie is with us, people came to talk to him too.

 

What I find amazing is that we always seem to meet at least one Palestinian (last time we met two, separately) whether from the diaspora, including England, Israeli towns or the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).  This time we met a lovely young man from Haifa, and as with every other Palestinian we have met on Oxford Street, he was very happy to see us there.

 

And, as is usually the case on such a busy, crowded street on a Saturday afternoon, we encountered one or two people who opposed our solidarity.  One woman furiously asked one of our number if she had ever been there, to which our friend replied, truthfully, that she had, and the woman stormed off furiously muttering about ‘mad’Palestinians; she was hopping ‘mad’herself  despite not having been expelled or displaced and offered no argument as to why we shouldn’t be there aside from her ‘mad’comment.  As one of our friends pointed out, it wasn’t necessary to go to South Africa to know that it practised Apartheid, yet this is a question which people often ask.  Last time that question was asked a friend could reply that he had spent several years there!  These days anyone who wants to find out the truth only has to search on the internet to see for themselves the awful things happening to the people of Palestine

Another person, a young man with a girlfriend, shouted “Long live Israel”as he walked past.  I don’t know if it was the same person because I only saw the back of the pair, but the same thing happened two weeks ago as a couple walked past, and one of our friends politely replied “Best of luck”.  I decided to respond in exactly the same way, so said, “Best of luck”as they continued walking away.

We will always be friendly and courteous when met with opposition.  We have truth and the desire for dignity, justice and equality for all on our side.  “Best of luck”is the best response because as the world becomes more and more aware of the the truth they will need it.

 

JOIN US NEXT ACTION 26th April 12pm -2pm 

BOYCOTT SODASTREAM UPDATE FANTASTIC NEW SONG COMING ‘STRAIGHT OUTTA PALESTINE’

BRAND NEW WEBSITE FROM FINLAND

http://www.sodascream.com/

AND DON’T MISS OUR NEXT ACTION 

SATURDAY 12th APRIL 12pm -2pm OUTSIDE JOHN LEWIS DEPT STORE 300 OXFORD ST W1

KEEP UP TO DATE VIA TWITTER @LondonBDSgroup

 

On 1st February, we had a really good turnout for our leafleting outside John Lewis. This was doubly pleasing as, a fortnight earlier, many regulars had gone straight to the Israeli Embassy to mark 5 years since the Gaza onslaught. With only half a dozen of us at John Lewis that time, the security officer remarked ‘the demos are fizzling out, aren’t they?..’ but I retorted with an emphatic ‘no!’ and then explained that we’d keep coming for as long as it takes- ‘not negotiable’ , I added. So a solid turnout on the 1st underlined this.

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The Scarlett Johansson debacle played right into our hands. (- Oxfam failed to act quickly to remove her from their books after she’d started doing promotional work for Sodastream. Johansson eventually took the initiative to resign from Oxfam, but not before provoking a prolonged media storm. Sodastream must be ruing the day they took her on- she’s being paid handsomely (- no doubt) to help US do our work…)

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Numerous passers-by told us that it was the ‘Oxfam v Sodastream debate’ in the media that had alerted them to the issue with Sodastream. So we offer Scarlett our grateful thanks! If you want more detail on the ways in which she’s given the boycott movement a boost, US Campaign To End The Occupation has done a great job listing the Media coverage which includes ‘ A Very British Satire Clip’ first shown on BBC2

I note these comments,for example:-

‘Not surprisingly, the boycott issue is hotly debated in Israel. Avraham Burg, a dovish former speaker of the Knesset, wrote approvingly in Haaretz that Israel “will remain helpless when confronted by a [Palestinian] civil rebellion that moves the discourse from who’s stronger/tougher/more resilient to a discourse on rights and values. For this we have no answer.”

Oxford Street continues to be an excellent setting in which for us to spread the word- there’s such an international crowd that we know our ideas will be carried far and wide.

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Our regular presence will in itself place mounting pressure on John Lewis, but this perhaps needs to be combined with further and more persistent contact with John Lewis’s Buying Dept.. John Lewis is showing no sign of ceasing to sell Sodastream products any time soon.

NEXT ACTION IS SATURDAY 15th FEB 12pm- 2pm

Ring another one up for BDS!

One of my new years resolutions was to get more involved in the London BDS campaign. And if ever I needed any more motivation it was provided by reading this article about settlers attacking the Al Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem on Saturday morning: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/middle-east/9292-israeli-settlers-storm-al-aqsa-mosque-and-climb-dome-of-the-rock . Rather than raging silently the BDS campaign gives us the opportunity to resist in a concrete way.

A half dozen strong group of us set up shop outside John Lewis in Oxford Street, handing out leaflets or asking passers by to sign the petition calling on JLP to drop Sodastream products. The response was overwhelmingly positive and many shoppers stopped to find out more about the occupation, Israel’s illegal settlements and the way in which companies are exploiting these for commercial gain.

As you would expect in Central London we met people from many different countries. You might naturally expect people from Lebanon, Egypt, Iran and Iraq to be sympathetic but it was also interesting how many people from continental Europe (France, Germany, Spain) were familiar with the issues and expressed solidarity with the protest.

The map of disappearing Palestine probably says more than any argument can and quite a few passers by who recognised it actually asked to have their picture taken next to it. Hopefully those images will be passed around, posted on social networking sites and help to spread the word. For those who were not familiar with Israel’s annexation of Palestinian land the image was not only highly impactful but also served as a great starting point for discussion.

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For this activist there was also a ‘bullseye’ moment where I handed a leaflet to a shopper who said she had been about to buy a Sodastream. Having learned that the products were being manufactured on stolen Palestinian land she changed her mind (honestly, this really happened!).

Sale cancelled! Ring another one up for BDS!

JOIN US NEXT ACTION SAT 1st Feb

https://www.facebook.com/events/485520638232640/

First there was one, then there were two, then four and then five leafleteers. Then came two more, followed by three, totalling ten to end the year.

Despite the wind and rain and the hectic last main shopping day before the Christmas holiday and although shoppers were wet, busy and laden down with bags, many took our postcards and more than we expected stopped to talk. John Lewis should take pride in their clientele and members of staff as they were genuinely politely interested in why we were there.

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Not long after we’d started out a woman took a postcard and then actually came back to say,
“Well done for turning out in the rain. Good luck,” which filled us with good cheer and encouraged us in the continuation of our work. Another woman stopped to say that John Lewis should be stocking Palestinian goods and a man said that he would definitely write to them. One young woman asked what the leafleting was about and when she was told, and it was suggested that she could sign a petition she said that she would.

In recent years more people have heard about the illegal settlements, but may not have any conception of what that means. Having the fact pointed out that Soda Stream machines are made on a settlement deemed to be illegal under international law, and that by selling this product John Lewis is profiting from selling these contraptions to the detriment of the people on whose stolen land this factory is operating, may bring home to people how unjust the whole colonising project is. This would at least be a start in raising the awareness of people who have absolutely no idea of what is happening in the belligerently occupied Palestinian territories.

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As has happened before, a man stopped and said that he was Palestinian and that he had just arrived and thanked us for what we were doing. Last action a young, blonde woman and her boyfriend had been looking at our Disappearing Palestine banner, and when she was told that what she was seeing was a true description of the lie of the land she said, “I know. I’m from that country.” The blonde hair had been deceptive: you never know who is a Palestinian! In fact, on our very first Soda Stream outing outside John Lewis, a young Palestinian from Gaza had been walking past and he actually stopped and joined us. Not only that, he came back on several occasions after that, and although we haven’t seen him on our last couple of outings, I am sure we will soon see him again. When struggling for Palestinian rights, hope springs eternal.

We would like to Congratulate Staples of Norway for discontinuing the sale of Soda Stream in their shops and we are in solidarity with all the hardworking Norwegian Activists who have given us this victory.

This is why we carry on, and we’ll be back again outside John Lewis in January 2014.

Here’s to happy holidays for everyone and a happy New Year to all our friends, loved ones, and all the people of Palestine.

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