In the Wake of Flotilla Incident, Business as Usual for Israel Haters in Great Britain

Not a week goes by in Great Britain without a noisy and often malevolent demonstration against something Israeli, including this week's tsunami of unprecedented Israel-hatred after the “Gaza flotilla” incident. But let’s go back in time a little bit.

I will hold readers in suspense about an extraordinary event that occurred on April 28 in Manchester, but suffice it to say that the most bizarre and far-fetched of demonstrations took place not long ago at the Natural History Museum in Kensington, London.

We have a reliable rubbish collection service in London called Veolia; they seem to work 365 days a year and even pick up our trash on holidays. They are a vast improvement on Onyx, the previous firm, and I always smile when I see their trucks around the city.

On a recent busy Saturday, outside the Natural History Museum where the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition was taking place, a large demonstration -- roughly a thousand people -- was taking place. Families trying to enter the museum were stopped by activists holding leaflets and banners about the criminal, genocidal behavior of “apartheid Israel.”

Alongside the banners, signs told all of us to “Boycott Veolia.”

As it happens, Veolia is a French company participating in the building of a tram system in Israel. It is also a sponsor of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum. Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods, and other Israel-bashing activists with nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon converged on Kensington to chant and distribute leaflets condemning the excellent trash collectors.

What I found disturbing about the demonstrators was their visceral anger. One man started screaming at me when I said there were fifty-odd Muslim countries in the world and just one Jewish state. He went into a paroxysm of rage, calling me an Islamophobe and racist.

A few days later the same young fellow was busy shouting and jumping about outside Ahava, the Israeli salon and skin product manufacturer. Its main London spa is in Covent Garden; a tiny group of stalwart Israel supporters led by Jonathan Hoffman, vice chair of the Zionist Federation UK, assembles there every other Saturday to counter the large crowd that gathers to denounce the “genocidal apartheid state.” Some of the pro-Palestinian protestors can barely contain their rage and they try to stop tourists and Londoners from entering the store.

What is irksome is that the Israeli woman who runs the Ahava shop complains every other Saturday to Jonathan not about the loud, drum-pounding, hateful anti-Israel demonstrators but about the “noise” the small contingent of Jewish activists makes. Her beef is that she “loses business” during the two hours of the rally, 12 noon until 2 PM. She bitterly moaned to me that her “massage clientele” go crazy from the noise generated by Hoffman’s megaphone.