UK supermarket removes kosher food, fearing protesters

Sainsbury’s branch manager explains move was temporary, but many express outrage at acquiescence to threats

A Sainsbury's branch (photo credit: CC BY-SA Chris Talbot/Wikimedia Commons)
A Sainsbury's branch (photo credit: CC BY-SA Chris Talbot/Wikimedia Commons)

A Sainsbury’s store in central London removed kosher products from shelves on Saturday when protesters rallied outside to call for a ban on Israeli produce, The Guardian reported Sunday.

A representative for the chain said the decision was an “isolated” one by the branch manager, who only did so temporarily in order to prevent the protesters from attacking the food products.

But an image of the empty shelves posted to social media sparked outrage, with many accusing the chain of anti-Semitic action, or at the very least, cowardice.

Colin Appleby, who posted the photo, 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.”

“Disgusting,” Facebook user Simon Gray wrote on the company’s page. “Perhaps you should just hire more security to protect the store and your customers.”

Twitter user Max Wind-Cowie wrote: “No. Just no. You do not remove kosher food out of respect for/fear of racists. How utterly disappointing.” Sali Hughes tweeted: “Might be an idea for @sainsburys to spend some of vast profits on a security guard to make shoppers safe, rather than indulge loony racists?”

But the chain said no action would be taken against the manager.

“It was the manager’s decision there and then — not company policy at all,” the spokeswoman said. “We have had similar demonstrations at stores where people have gone in and removed goods, though no great damage was done. A decision was taken by a store manager faced with a challenging situation outside the store.”

Also 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.

JTA contributed to this report.

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