Palestinian activists raise their flags in Rami Levy

Popular Struggle Coordination C'tee storms W. Bank market, holding signs saying "boycott occupation, products."

Palestinian protestor arrested 370 (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Palestinian protestor arrested 370
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Customers pushing carts at Rami Levy supermarket in the Sha’ar Binyamin industrial zone of the West Bank were startled Wednesday morning when Palestinian activists marched through the door waving flags and shouting, “Occupation no more.”
Surprised security guards did not move fast enough to shut the doors as the activists marched single file into the store.
As the glass door shut in his face, one customer said, “But I’m in the middle of shopping.”
Palestinians crowded between the checkout counters and aisles, next to which hung packages of balloons and red licorice.
“Out, out settlers,” they chanted. “Five, six, seven, eight, Israel is a fascist state,” they continued.
They also held signs that said, “Boycott the occupation and its products.”
Palestinian NGO, the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee, which last week briefly blocked the West Bank Road 443, planned the event.
Road 443 is mostly used by Israeli vehicles and is a main artery to Jerusalem.
On Wednesday morning, they targeted a well-trafficked supermarket in the Binyamin region, just outside of Jerusalem. They marched through the store and back out into the parking lot, down the road toward Route 60. Some 20 foreigners were with them.
Border Police and soldiers quickly assembled at the market and closed its gates behind the activists. They then blocked all avenues before the activists – which at this point numbered close to 100 – could actually exit the area.
The only path possible required them to hike down through the valley by the side of the road.
Still, a police commander warned the demonstrators his officers would use force if they did not leave within five minutes.
Minor skirmishes and shouting matches broke out between police and the demonstrators for half-an-hour, until the area was clear.
Some demonstrators hiked down the valley.
Police bused others out of the area. At certain points, security forces used stun grenades to control the situation. At other times they chased activists they identified as ringleaders.
In one scuffle with an activist, border policemen and soldiers pulled a man’s cane away from his hand and pushed him to the ground. A number of activists were able to pull him away. But in another such scuffle, an activist passed out and was taken away in a Red Crescent ambulance.
When one woman refused to move, a border policeman and a soldier attempted to pull her up by her arms.
The protest attracted a few settlers, including Binyamin Regional Council deputy head Motti Yogev and members of the nonprofit group Regavim, which promotes a Zionist agenda for the State of Israel. Its office is located on top of the supermarket, and it had been in the middle of a staff meeting when the protest broke out.
Ari Briggs and Meir Deutsch walked out to the parking lot and argued with the protesters.
Briggs was particularly incensed when some of the foreign activists yelled out at him, “Nazi.”
“You are calling me a Nazi?” he asked, startled. “You are from Europe. My grandfather was killed by Nazis, my father was saved from Nazis by a Christian and I am a Jew standing in our homeland. Don’t call me a Nazi, how can you call anyone a Nazi?” he said.
“You are acting like Nazis,” responded the activist.
The short protest was part of a civil disobedience initiative by the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee. Its aim is to promote the point that Israel must leave the West Bank.
Abir Kopty, the group’s spokeswoman, said the organization had targeted the popular supermarket chain because it has four branches in the West Bank and its owner has many ties to the settlements.
For Israelis in the West Bank, the Rami Levy chain is an oasis of coexistence. On any day, Palestinians and Israelis can be seen shopping or working together there.
“This was a demonstration against coexistence,” said Deutsch. “Rami Levy is a unique place where Jews and Arabs work together and buy together in peace and quiet.
“The fact that this is possible is very concerning to the extreme leftists that claim to want peace, when in fact they are anti- Israel demonstrators,” Deutsch said.
But Kopty told The Jerusalem Post, “You cannot have coexistence while there is occupation.” The Rami Levy chain benefits from settlements and the occupation, and Palestinians should boycott them, she said.
“They are one of the symbols of the injustice and colonization on our land,” she said.
Police said that they arrested two Palestinians and two foreigners who had taken part in the demonstration.
Kopty said that one of those arrested was Basim Tamimi, head of the Popular Committee of Nabi Saleh. She added that police broke some of his ribs.