Peaceful Protest to target Marks & Spencer’s financial support in Israel’s war on Gaza and to call for an Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza [Haverfordwest, UK]
In response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, a peaceful protest is scheduled to take place on Saturday, 2nd December 2023, protestors will gather on the old bridge in Haverfordwest at 2:00 PM and will march to the M&S store at the Withybush retail park for a rally and speeches.
The organisers; Stop the War Coalition Pembrokeshire, Solidarity with Palestine Pembrokeshire and the Palestinian Refugee Project tell us speeches will be heard from local residents, pro Palestinian campaigners and trade unionists which will aim to highlight M&S’s and other UK companies’ financial backing of the current genocide in Gaza.
The demonstration follows weekly vigils which have been held in Haverfordwest and a recent 200 strong protest in Haverfordwest which targeted Stephen Crabb MP aimed at drawing attention to the urgent need for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, where over 14,000 lives have been tragically lost in what organisers describe as “incessant and indiscriminate bombings by the Israeli army.“
Organisers say the protest seeks to raise awareness of the long standing commercial links between Marks & Spencer and Israel. M&S is just one of a number of British companies which financially gain from Israel’s war on the Palestinian people.
Marks & Spencer
Historically, Marks & Spencer has made statements in support of Zionism. Lord Sieff, chairman and founder of M&S; who died in 2001, made several statements in support of Israel’s military policies. In 1941, Sieff said that “large sections of the Arab population of Palestine should be transplanted to Iraq and other Middle-Eastern Arab States” (Jewish Chronicle, 21/09/1941). In 1990, Sieff, in a book entitled On Management: The Marks and Spencer Way, wrote that one of the fundamental objectives of M&S; was to “aid the economic development of Israel.”
The retail company has repeatedly asserted that “[it has] no ‘special’ relationship with any government, political party or religious group” but accepts that M&S; does “make representations to governments in support of [its] commercial aims.”
In 1998, Sir Richard Greenbury, then CEO of Marks & Spencer, received the Jubilee Award from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. In 2000, the Jerusalem Report stated that “M&S; supports Israel with $233 million in trade each year.”
In October 2000, the Jewish Chronicle reported that the British-Israel Chamber of Commerce (B-ICC) had held meetings at Marks & Spencer’s offices in Baker Street. However, in 2008 the store claimed that M&S; “do not host meetings on our premises for the B-ICC.” Nevertheless, in December 2004, Stuart Rose, CEO of Marks and Spencer at the time, was a listed speaker at the annual dinner of the B-ICC.
When questioned in correspondence about the sale of Israeli goods in M&S; stores in 2008, an M&S; spokesperson said that the company buys “from Israel as… from 70 other countries…” and went on to state that the company would continue to do so.
M&S; stocks Israeli grapes, lychees, figs, plums, dates, fresh herbs, sweet potatoes, potatoes (Maris Piper, Desiree, Jacket, Marfona, and King Edward). Many of these products are imported through Carmel-Agrexco, a company part-owned by the Israeli state.
M&S; also stocks large quantities of Delta Galil clothing, largely underwear. Delta Galil is Israel’s largest manufacturer and marketer of textiles. Marks and Spencer also sells textiles produced by Israeli firms, Solog and Polgat.
Until very recently, M&S; openly sold products from illegal Israeli settlements. The Guardian reported in 2004 that the company stocked an extensive range of settlement products. Since 2007, however, M&S; has made repeated statements to the press claiming that they do not stock goods from the Occupied Territories. In 2008, the store wrote: “We do not buy products from the West Bank, Golan Heights or Gaza as we cannot safely visit the suppliers in these areas because of the current security situation.” It seems probable that the move to cease selling settlement products was, in fact, due to effective campaigning, protests and fear of adverse press coverage.
But despite the above assurance, there is evidence that M&S; continues to stock Hadiklaim dates packaged as an M&S; own brand product. According to a recent report by School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Hadiklaim, the Israel Date Growers’ Cooperative Ltd, “exports dates from Israel and from the occupied territories, especially Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley.”
M&S; has faced sustained protests due to their historic ideological support for the Israeli state and because of their policy of stocking Israeli goods.
The demonstration also calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza, and to urge Israel to lift the siege that has deprived the people of Gaza of essential resources such as medical supplies, food, electricity, and water.
These actions by Israel are a clear violation of international law, and the protesters demand accountability and justice.
Jim Scott of Stop the War Pembrokeshire told us: “It is absolutely vital that we campaign via every route available to us against the unfolding genocide which is currently being inflicted on Gaza and the people of Palestine. This means highlighting UK companies who support and financially back Israel’s state terrorism as well as highlighting the UK government’s active support for these war crimes and the UK arms factories directly benefiting and supporting this militarily. We’ve seen thousands of innocent civilians and children killed in Gaza in recent weeks by bombs, guns, helicopters, F16’s and drones made and supplied in the UK and in Wales too. Marks & Spencer along with the UK government are not only complicit but actively supporting this genocide financially. It’s vital that we as campaigners do everything we can to expose this.”
Patrick Connellan from the Solidarity with Palestine Pembrokeshire group said: For 75 years, the apartheid state of Israel has been denying Palestinians basic human rights, forcing them out of their homes, imprisoning thousands; including children in indefinite detention without trial, regularly using torture, illegally occupying and stealing Palestinian land and murdering Palestinians at an alarming rate. Israel’s recent ethnic cleansing of Gaza has killed well over 8,000 children. These crimes would not be possible without the backing of the UK government and British firms financial support. British firms like M&S are profiting from the deaths of Palestinian children. They have blood on their hands. This has to stop. The huge movement in support of Palestine still growing day by day on British streets, colleges and workplaces has revealed the truth about Israel and its war on the Palestinian people and the support for this from our own political leaders. We will not stop until Palestine is free!
Protestors say their message is one of peace, compassion, and a call for an end to the suffering in Gaza.
Fatima khaliq: People need to understand this is not a religious war. This war has been created to wipe Gaza as it comes in the way of the rival canal Israel wants to build against the Suez canal. Not only would it make Israel the Lord of control over international trade but would leave many countries with no choice but to stay silent at their oppression. All the companies supporting their genocide and choosing to stay silent know this very well. So let’s all boycott whatever we can so these companies collapse and are forced to stop supporting the ethnic cleansing of innocent people.
Weekly vigils have been taking place in Haverfordwest at 7.00pm on Castle Square every Friday since the attacks on Gaza began and are expected to continue until calls for a permanent ceasefire are answered.
All details of Saturday’s demonstration can be found at the Facebook event.