Israel shop blockaded in city centre

THE war in Gaza spilled over into Manchester city centre as pro-Palestinian demonstrators blockaded an Israeli-owned shop.

The protesters attempted to stop customers entering and leaving Kedem Cosmetics, which sells Israeli Dead Sea beauty products.

But Israel supporters have rallied to the defence of the beleaguered shop in fashionable King Street and braved the Palestinian blockade.

They turned the street into a sea of Israeli flags with Hebrew singing and dancing, outnumbering the Palestinian flags and chants.

Kedem retail manager Elad Duzzy told the Jewish Telegraph that the demonstrators had been blockading the shop for more than a week.

He said: “They were blocking our trade. They were standing outside the door where we usually stood to approach passers-by.

“Our staff were terrified and stayed inside the shop. For more than a week we had to shut down early because of it. Our business has been very badly affected.”

Mr Duzzy, who is Israeli, continued: “Our company has nothing to do with the current political situation in Israel.

“It would be like blockading a petrol station because the oil is coming from an Arab country. It does not make sense.”

The situation, which had been going on for nearly a week, deteriorated on Monday.

A scuffle broke out between protesters and a customer who had succeeded in entering the shop and managed to push his way out, throwing aside the Palestinian flag which was barring his exit.

The protesters repeatedly called on police community support officers to arrest the customer.

Former Israeli paratrooper Zalman Salamon, of Northenden, came to the customer’s rescue.

He told the Jewish Telegraph: “The protesters were making a lot of racket with a loudspeaker.

“They all had cameras and were taking shots of anyone who seemed a bit negative to them.

“A customer was trying to get out of the shop. The protesters had blocked the door. He had to push through them and grabbed their Palestinian flag to make his way out.

“They all started ganging up on him, running after him and were about to attack him.

“I realised I had to help him. But the customer ran for police protection. Then the protesters started ganging up on me.

“One of them was literally right in my face. I asked him to please step back. He was so aggressive.

“I told him his aggression was typical of that used by Hamas against Israel.”

Zalman’s wife Yael, who was born just after World War Two to Dutch Holocaust survivors, was traumatised by the incident.

She said: “It was scandalously antisemitic. A protester pointed at the shop and said, ‘This symbolises Israel’.

“They are targeting Jewish shops. It reminds me of what the Nazis did. I was so furious.

“They are targeting and harassing people who are nothing to do with the war, accusing British shopkeepers of killing Palestinian children.

“They should be banned. They are inciting racial hatred.”

Following Monday’s incident, a group of Israel supporters decided to hold a counter-demonstration on Tuesday when the situation heated up with one pro-Palestinian demonstrator being arrested for a public order offence after giving a Nazi salute.

A police spokesman said: “One person was arrested for a racially or religiously motivated public order offence. The 39-year-old male was given a police caution.

“People are perfectly entitled to protest peacefully in a public space. But they are not allowed to stop people entering premises.

“Police community support officers are advising protesters not to block shop entrances to allow people access.

“Pro-Israelis were peacefully protesting with two sets of protesters being kept apart by police.”

Martine Vaizman was one of Tuesday’s pro-Israel protesters.

She said: “The pro-Palestinians were trying to force Kedem to close. We arranged a counter-protest.

“When I arrived, there were around 10 people stuck inside the shop with an Israeli flag.

“The police, who were inside the shop to keep everyone apart so there should not be a violent riot, let me in the door and I joined the Israel supporters.

“But they would not let us out till the Tactical Aid Unit had arrived to administer crowd control.

“When they came after an hour-and-a-half, we were allowed to go outside.

“By the end of the afternoon it was pretty equal numbers on both sides.

“We spent our time singing to them and trying to reason with them, telling them through a megaphone that we were pro-peace as well as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian.

“When they were screaming ‘Free Palestine’, we joined them and added, ‘From Hamas’.

“We even bought the pro-Palestinian demonstrators bottles of water. We just didn’t want an innocent business to be disrupted.

“The protesters did not know what to say. They don’t have any arguments. We were well received by spectators and did a very good job. We made our community proud.”

Martine insisted: “We will go back every day until the protest is no longer outside the shop.”

And back she went for Wednesday’s demonstration, which she described as “less hostile and aggressive” than on the previous day, although it had attracted neo-Nazis and anarchists.

Jewish Telegraph columnist Sandi Mann said of Wednesday’s counter-demonstration: “I was so proud of the Jewish community of Manchester.

“I was proud to be there with the youngest and eldest participants — my 12-year-old daughter and my mother.”

She said: “We far outnumbered them. We sang proudly, we danced, we tried to put across the other view.

“There was a strong police presence and it felt safe. The minute’s silence was amazing as both sides united in grief for the slain.”

“We must keep up the pressure. We took them by surprise today, but they won’t give up and nor must we.”

Police said that Wednesday’s demonstrations were peaceful.

Mark Gardner, of the Community Security Trust, said: “The CST is very much aware of the situation and of the potential for it to spiral. We are working very closely with the police.”

The CST record that the number of antisemitic incidents nationally in July has doubled on the expected average, with more than 70 taking place, 10 involving violence.

* Windows of Belfast’s synagogue were repeatedly smashed on Shabbat. Police are treating the incident as a hate crime.

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