British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s apologized on Monday after staff at a central London store removed kosher food from shelves in response to protesters outside demanding a boycott of Israeli goods.
Members of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign demonstrated outside the supermarket’s Holborn branch on Saturday against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, and held up signs urging shoppers to “boycott Israel now.”
The branch manager ordered the chilled kosher section to be emptied, prompting a backlash after a photograph was posted on social media.
Former Conservative MP Louise Mensch wrote on Twitter: “Dear @Sainsburys kosher is JEWISH food. Israel is a COUNTRY. How DARE YOU equate Jews’ food to ISRAEL, how dare you #EverydayAntisemitism”.
The supermarket issued an apology on Monday.
“We would like to apologize for any inconvenience or offence caused,” said a spokesperson.
“The decision was taken in one store only to move these chilled products to cold storage elsewhere in that store for a short period… as a precautionary measure during a demonstration close by.
“They were returned to shelf as soon as was practically possible.
“As a non-political organization, Sainsbury’s would never take such a decision on grounds other than ensuring the quality or safety of our products,” it added.
The Palestinian Solidarity Campaign says its boycott of Israeli goods is a form of peaceful international pressure on the Jewish state over its policies towards the Palestinians.
Colin Appleby, who posted the photo of the empty supermarket shelves, said one employee he confronted on the issue said “We support Free Gaza.” When he noted that many of the kosher products were not even made in Israel, “they just walked away.”
— Malka (@MalkaWolf) August 17, 2014
On Saturday, demonstrators in Birmingham attacked police and threw food products on the floor while calling on a local supermarket to stop selling Israeli food products.
About 100 demonstrators had gathered for a protest of Israeli food products outside a Tesco store. Then a smaller group of protesters holding Palestinian flags entered the store and started pushing over piles of food products, according to the Telegraph.