British high court rules against Ahava boycotters

Court upholds conviction of protesters for criminal trespassing in London store of Dead Sea cosmetics firm, dismisses ‘war crimes’ justification

Britain’s high court on Wednesday struck down an appeal by four anti-Israel demonstrators who had been convicted of trespassing inside an Israeli cosmetics store in London in protest of Israel’s policy in the West Bank.

The four were convicted by a district judge in 2011 for chaining themselves to a concrete block inside an Ahava store in Covent Garden. They argued their actions were in protest of Ahava aiding and abetting a war crime, namely illegal settlement construction in the West Bank; that the goods were a product of that war crime; that the company was deceiving British tax authorities by labeling its products as Israeli products, and that the cosmetics were misleading to customers because they were labeled as coming from the “Dead Sea, Israel.”

The four were ordered to pay £250 in damages, and appealed the ruling twice prior to taking the case to the Supreme Court.

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the action of the protesters was too far removed from the alleged crimes committed by Ahava to justify disruption of legal activity — selling cosmetics — at a store in London.

“An offense takes away the lawful character of what the occupier is doing if, but only if, it is integral to that activity,” Justice Anthony Philip Gilson Hughes, Lord Hughes of Ombersley, said in the court’s decision.

“In fact, the war crime argument couldn’t in any event help the defendants in any case,” he said, noting that Ahava didn’t aid and abet the movement of settlers, but rather took advantage of an already existing state to set up a factory. Hughes further noted that the argument of labeling was “tangential, collateral, not integral to the selling” of the goods.

The Ahava store closed its doors in September 2011, shortly after the protests, following four years of demonstrations and counter-demonstrations.

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