Sainsbury's Slammed for Removing Kosher Food

Supermarket says it feared violence by anti-Israel protesters outside London branch, but witnesses claim staff said 'We support Gaza.'

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Shoppers at Sainsbury's supermarket, in Cromwell Road, London, U.K., on Wednesday, April 25, 2007.
Shoppers at Sainsbury's supermarket, in Cromwell Road, London, U.K., on Wednesday, April 25, 2007. Credit: Bloomberg News

Sainsbury's supermarket chain is facing mounting criticism after a branch in Holborn, central London, removed kosher food from its shelves on Saturday.

According to the Guardian, the branch manager decided to empty the kosher food section fearing violence from protesters who were gathered outside calling for a boycott on Israeli goods.

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."

A spokesperson for Sainsbury's was quoted in the Guardian as saying that the kosher food was returned "as soon as was practically possible" and that the chain is "an absolutely non-political organization."

The spokesperson added that this was "an isolated decision made by [sic] in a very challenging situation. It was chilled food and he was simply trying to preserve it." She added that "It was the manager's decision there and then – not company policy at all. We have had similar demonstrations at stores where people have gone in and removed goods, though no great damage was done. A decision was taken by a store manager faced with a challenging situation outside the store."

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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