This is a be­trayal — Is­raeli firm would not take on boy­cotters

COM­MENT

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - JONATHAN GOLD­BERG

WHAT­EVER DOUBTS some may have had about the vi­a­bil­ity of open­ing a shop in Brighton in 2012 to sell their prod­ucts, it was re­fresh­ing to hear as­sur­ances from the So­daStream man­age­ment at the time that “we have no in­ten­tion ei­ther to be the next Ahava in the UK or to close our store — we will not back down”.

How de­press­ing, then, that less than two years later they have done ex­actly that, and with­out putting up any proper fight.

The forces of the BDS move­ment, of course, busily pick­eted the shop and or­gan­ised noisy demon­stra­tions from the day it opened.

Counter-demon­stra­tions were vig­or­ously main­tained by Sus­sex Friends of Is­rael, con­sist­ing mainly of ide­al­is­tic young Jewish people. There was a great deal of noise and ex­cite­ment around the shop over this pe­riod, some bloody noses, and some po­lice pros­e­cu­tions against both sides for of­fend­ing against the Pub­lic Or­der Acts.

What de­serves to be more widely known is this: at an early stage, So­daStream were told by the or­gan­i­sa­tion of which I am a di­rec­tor, the UK Lawyers for Is­rael (UKLFI), headed by bar­ris­ter Jonathan Turner, that they had an ex­cel­lent case to ob­tain a civil in­junc­tion and an ex­clu­sion zone from the High Court to pre­vent the demon­stra­tors from dis­rupt­ing their busi­ness.

The prece­dent was Ox­ford Univer­sity, which in a se­ries of im­por­tant cases be­tween 2004 and 2006, had ob­tained such in­junc­tions against an­i­mal rights pro­tes­tors who tried to pre­vent the univer­sity from build­ing a med­i­cal test­ing lab­o­ra­tory.

Ap­par­ently on no bet­ter ground than want­ing to avoid the le­gal costs, how­ever, So­daStream did noth­ing and let the demon­stra­tions con­tinue. The re­sult is the dis­as­ter which is now ap­par­ent to all.

They have let us all down. The BDS people are crow­ing all over the press and in­ter­net about their vic­tory. It is a de­feat for Zion­ism and Is­rael, and in my view, a be­trayal of those young people who trooped there loy­ally to counter-demon­strate.

What Is­raeli shop will dare open in the UK again, af­ter first Ahava — the beauty prod­uct store that closed in Lon­don in 2011 af­ter boy­cott protests — and now So­daStream?

Nor does the Is­raeli em­bassy emerge from this saga with any credit. Would it have been too much to ex­pect, par­tic­u­larly af­ter Ahava, that they would have had in place a top-notch UK le­gal team ready to pro­tect Is­raeli businesses? In fact, they were no help at all.

It was left to us at the UKLFI to do our limited best, and we were ig­nored. The English com­mon law would have pro­vided the rem­edy had it been in­voked, as it should have been. It was all so pre­dictable, and, gallingly, it was all so avoid­able. Jonathan Gold­berg QC is a leading Lon­don bar­ris­ter

PHOTO: PA

emon­stra­tionout­side­theE­coStreamshop; WestBank­fac­tory;theshop­which­closed­its­doors

PHOTO: PA

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