The UK’s Supreme Court yesterday upheld the convictions against four anti-Israel protestors for criminal trespass after they chained themselves to the shop of Israeli cosmetics company Ahava, in Covent Garden.
The incident, which took place in 2011, four years after anti-Israel activists began protesting outside the shop, saw the four activists chain themselves to a concrete block inside the Covent Garden store. They claimed it was a protest against “war crimes” committed by Ahava which has a factory in Mitzpe Shalom in the West Bank. The protestors also argued that Ahava’s products are “misleadingly” labelled as having been made in Israel.
A District Judge convicted the protestors of criminal trespass and ordered each of them to pay £250 in costs in 2011. Two appeals against the conviction had already been rejected and yesterday the Supreme Court similarly turned down a third and final appeal.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that an Israeli company operating in the West Bank is contravening the Geneva Convention unless they encourage people to actually move there. The judgement stated that any link to a breach of the Convention “was not an integral part of the activity carried on at the shop, which was retail selling.”
On the issue of labelling, the Supreme Court said that the selling of mislabelled goods is not an offence in itself, if they have not been labelled by those actually selling the goods. Significantly, the ruling also said that labelling goods as having been manufactured in Israel when they have been produced in the West Bank would in any case probably not constitute an offence, as the number of people whose purchase might be influenced by such a distinction was sufficiently small as to be immaterial.
Ahava closed its shop in Covent Garden in September 2011 after four years of protests and counter-protests outside its premises.