LONDON – Britain’s Charity Commission is assessing whether War on Want breached regulations when it staged a disruptive protest in a supermarket objecting to it stocking Israeli produce.
War on Want, which had been warned by the commission about its politicized campaign against Israel, led the protest at branch of the Waitrose supermarket chain in the Barbican area of central London on March 30.
Video of the proceedings on YouTube shows protesters wearing T-shirts saying “Boycott Israeli goods” and filling trolleys with produce, which they leave to block the checkout tills. Others staged a sit-in to block shopping aisles, and War on Want executive director John Hilary is seen harassing the supermarket manager.
“Concerns have been raised with the commission about the ongoing campaign activities undertaken by the charity War on Want (registered charity number 208724) in relation to a number of UK supermarkets,” a Charity Commission representative told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “We are currently considering whether this raises any regulatory concern for the commission and whether this is an acceptable activity for the charity to undertake.”
The film shows a female protester saying that all produce from Israel is probably from illegal settlements.
“Waitrose is illegally selling produce from the settlements. Anywhere that says from Israel is basically, is probably from illegal settlements in the West Bank,” she said.
A Waitrose representative told the Post on Tuesday that it has no intentions of heeding these demands and will continue to sell produce from Israel.
“We have no plans to stop stocking food from Israel – we clearly label all our food to enable customer choice based on personal beliefs.”
The representative said that all such produce is from Israel itself and that the only reason it stopped using a supplier from the West Bank was because it was unable to consistently produce the quality it required.
“Contrary to comments in the video, any Waitrose produce labeled as coming from ‘Israel’ comes from areas that are not disputed.
“Also contrary to comments in the video, we don’t stock any produce from the West Bank. We did used to sell small amounts of herbs sourced from the area. However, the grower struggled to consistently produce the required quality, so we are now sourcing from elsewhere,” the Waitrose representative said.
In 2007, War on Want launched a publication calling for a complete boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.
A spokesman for the Fair Play Campaign Group, a community organization set up to oppose anti-Israel boycotts, said: “War on Wants’ longstanding calls for a boycott of Israel have been rejected by the British public. This is why they’re resorting to such apparently thuggish behavior. If shoppers and supermarket workers felt harassed as a result, War on Want will have succeeded in further damaging its reputation.”
Irish Aid, the Irish government’s assistance to developing countries and one of War on Wants’ funders, said on Tuesday that it opposed anti-Israel boycotts.
“The Irish government is opposed to proposals for trade sanctions or boycotts against Israel. The minister for foreign affairs, Micheál Martin, has stated this publicly on many occasions,” an Irish Aid representative told the Post. “Irish Aid does not fund War on Want Northern Ireland or War on Want UK for work in Palestine.”
Meanwhile, Sweden’s’ cooperative union KF West, which runs a fifth of
Sweden’s grocery retail sector, is considering a boycott of Israeli
products. At a meeting of the western section of KF in Gothenburg on
Saturday, a majority of the members voted in favor of a boycott.
“The board of the section will now try to convince the other Swedish
sections to implement a nationwide ban on Israeli products in all the
Coop supermarkets,” KF West head Carina Malmer said in a press release.