LONDON, England — The flagship London branch of the popular Israeli cosmetics company AHAVA closed its doors for good last week, a result of bi-weekly Palestinian protests that continued to disrupt business and impact the store’s profits.
The Covent Garden location, one of several Ahava stores in the British capital, has been the site of demonstrations by dozens of pro-Palestinian activists who gathered outside its doors every Saturday for more than a year, calling on the British to boycott the company’s products. Protestors have targeted Ahava because the company produces its cosmetics and lotions on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, which pro-Palestinian organizations define as within the “occupied territories.” The protestors have clashed with store employees and have stopped shoppers outside the store, handing out leaflets accusing Israel of a “human crime.” During one protest the store’s windows were shattered; during another, demonstrators chained themselves to a concrete block inside the store.
At first, Ahava officials vowed to stand strong. But, according to London’s Jewish Chronicle, incessant complaints by neighboring store owners and residents to the disruption created by the protests, caused the landlord, Shaftesbury PLC, to announce that it would not renew Ahava’s lease which expired last week.
“On some Saturdays it was a real nightmare being here,” said a salesman of a nearby store. “We couldn’t walk on the street because of the protests and the area looked like a scene of a terrorist attack.”
Pro-Palestinian activists counted the demise of the store as a victory.
“We’ll continue protesting against any institution originating in the occupied territories until we remove all of them from Britain,” a source in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said. “Getting rid of Ahava is just the first step.”
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