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