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“The Law is an ass. UK Supreme Court throws out case of BDS Ahava occupiers in an extraordinary ruling” writes Glynn Secker 


In an extraordinary ruling on last week (Feb 5th), the UK Supreme court threw out the defence of those who had occupied the Ahava store in Covent Garden. The court stated that the primary issue was whether or not the legal offence (the war crime) of the Occupation of the Palestinian Territories was “integral to the activity” of the shop. If it were integral, then the occupation of the shop would be a protest against an illegal activity and would not itself be illegal.

The could ruled that the Occupation of the Territories occurred before (antecedent to and remote from) the trading activities of the shop, that the shop had not aided and abetted, in the sense of encouraging, the Occupation, and therefore the Occupation was not “integral” to the activities of the shop.

It ruled that the war crime allegation could not be used in defence because the most which could be said was that the factory company had taken advantage of the occupation to run the factory. That is, that the factory had not been a party to the original act of Occupation.

In addition, it ruled that it was the company of the factory which was in the Occupied Territories and not the company of the shop which would be the subject of any illegality, as if they are two wholly separate entities. Even the Jewish Chronicle does not attempt to draw this fig leaf:   “Ahava UK’s accounts up until the end of 2009 show a total loss of more than £250,000, despite receiving more than £300,000 from its Israeli parent company, with no repayment plan.” Robyn Rosen, March 31, 2011.

The court also ruled that had the product not been labelled “from the Dead Sea, Israel”, but “from the Dead Sea in the Occupied Territories” it would not have persuaded a woman (the actual sexist language used) not to purchase the product, and that therefore it was not mis-labelled.

Ahava the shop is owned by the same company which owns Ahava the factory and sells the products of the factory with the objective of making a profit for the whole enterprise. In no sense can it be considered either remote from the factory or not an integral part of the Ahava business.

Not withstanding the sexist attitudes, the reasoning about the labelling is bizarre: the central point about labelling rules is that the consumer shall be able to make an informed choice, which is not possible if the label does not accurately state the place of origin. The judges opinion of what information may or may not influence a shopper’s decision is wholly irrelevant. It is for the customer to exercise their opinion based on proper information, not the judges.

The Supreme Court has turned logic on its head. Bertold Brecht’s “beware of willing judges… and justice (the) blind pat” and Dicken’s ” the Law is an ass” come to mind.

Glyn Secker was the skipper of the Jewish Boat to Gaza and is a signatory and executive member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. He is writing  in a personal capacity.