Sainsbury's supermarket chain apologized on Monday for removing kosher food from its shelves at a London branch over the weekend, a decision that prompted an outrage on social media.
According to the Guardian, the branch manager at the Holborn branch in central London decided to empty the kosher food section fearing violence from protesters who were gathered outside calling for a boycott on Israeli goods.
"We would like to apologise for any inconvenience or offence caused," the company said on its website. "The decision was taken in one store only to move these chilled products to cold storage elsewhere in that store for a short period on Saturday as a precautionary measure during a demonstration close by." The company added that "as a non-political organisation, Sainsbury's would never take such a decision on grounds other than ensuring the quality or safety of our products."
Some witnesses, however, said that the food was removed not as a precaution but in support of the protesters, with one Sainsbury's staff member reportedly saying "We support Gaza."
On social media, the supermarket chain was accused of racism and anti-Semitism. Former Tory MP Louise Mench tweeted: "Dear @Sainsburys kosher is JEWISH food. Israel is a COUNTRY. How DARE YOU equate Jews' food to ISRAEL, how dare you #EverydayAntisemitism."
Colin Appleby, the witness who heard the Gaza comment, also posted a picture of the empty kosher section, adding: "I didn't try to point out that kosher goods were not Israeli goods but they walked away."
Another customer, Gavin Platman, complained on Facebook that the supermarket was "not making a political statement against Israel but instead are targeting a group based on race – i.e. Jews."
On Saturday, demonstrators in Birmingham attacked police and threw food products on the floor while calling on a local supermarket to stop selling Israeli goods.
About 100 demonstrators had gathered for a protest of Israeli food products outside the Tesco supermarket in Hodge Hill. A smaller group of protesters, holding Palestinian flags, then entered the store and started pushing over piles of food products.
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