Dancing the Dabke to beat Israeli Apartheid

Sherrl Yanowitz and Neil Rogall report from successful action organised by London Palestine Action against Israeli apartheid  

Photo: Steve Eason

Photo: Steve Eason

London Palestine Action organised an all singing , all dancing, bubble blowing Dabke flash-mob to ‘cleanse’ Covent Garden cosmetic shops selling Israeli goods or using stolen Palestinian ingredients. On Saturday afternoon 70 people turned up in Lincoln’s Inn Fields ready to learn how to dance the Dabke and work on slogans and songs. Armed with mops, cleaning equipment and bubble makers we danced and chanted our way from Holborn Station into Covent Garden to ‘clean up Israeli apartheid’.

Our first target was Sabon. This shop sports a motto ‘Magnificent Beauty’ and states on its website that its inspiration ‘comes from nature, which holds powerful secrets’. Sabon hides a dark secret of its own. This Israeli owned firm manufactures its products in a factory built over the ruins of Palestinian villages, al-Faluja and Iraq al-Manshiyya. The 7000 inhabitants of these villages, close to Tel Aviv were ethnically cleansed by the Zionists and forcibly exiled during the Nakba. ‘We wish to encourage an appreciation of the daily ritual of a bath’ declares Sabon’s mission statement. But Israeli occupation of the West Bank, not so many miles away from Sabon’s factory, has created water shortages on a massive scale. Many Palestinians have barely enough water to drink.

Some of us went into the shop, chanting to argue with the staff and customers. The manageress could hardly contain herself, screaming and threatening us before calling the cops. Outside the shop we ‘cleaned’ their windows with our mops and sponges and blew symbolic bubbles.

We then danced our way along Neal Street to Sakare who claim to source their ‘powerful skin-enhancing ingredients from all over the world’. One source is the Dead Sea in the West Bank where Israeli companies illegally harvest Palestinian resources. Once again we occupied the shop and danced and sang in the street outside.

Our next stop would have been ‘Obey your Body’ whose skin care products use stolen Dead Sea salt. But they had shut up shop and run away before we arrived!

Our fourth target was ‘ethical’ Neal’s Yard Remedies who also use stolen Palestinian resources. We asked the shop workers if selling products with stolen Palestinian resources was ethical. But the shop workers were perplexed. They clearly had no idea what was in their organic products.

We then danced back to Sabon for a final protest. Saturday was the second time LPA protested outside Sabon during Israeli Apartheid Week. In 2011 the Israeli shop Ahava was forced to close down permanently after sustained protests. We must do the same to Sabon.

Support for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions is growing in London. On Friday night SOAS staff and students voted for BDS in a college wide referendum. On Saturday we took the argument into to the heart of London’s shopping hub. And this demonstration was a great deal of fun too.

Thanks to London Palestine Action for some of the information

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