Boycott, Divest and Waitrose

4 Feb

An elderly man, Daily Telegraph under his arm and in winter coat topped by silk scarf – not a keffiyeh …

… exits the store. With sardonic eye he takes in the gathering – we’re upwards of a hundred, I think – bearing placards and chanting the usual call-and-answers:

Free, free Palestine! … From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free! … What do we want?  Ceasefire! … When do we want it? Now!

En route to his car he turns to face the bulk of the crowd, positioned across the drive-past from the main exit, and cups free hand to mouth:

Down with Hamas!

I’m standing alone a scant few yards distant, having stepped back to take a wide shot. Without thinking I shout at greater volume:

Up with Hamas!

I haven’t done that before – confining myself to a refusal to condemn it – so I’m surprised by my own reaction. Truth be told it’s more ego rising than thought out position.

All the same, and say what you like about Hamas, we would not be here – nor the apartheid terrorist state drawing the world’s contempt as never in its seventy-five years of existence – had its fighters not acted as they did on October 7, 2023.

No one can take that from them.


Minutes earlier the partner of a close friend had emerged from the self-same store, Waitrose on Ecclesall Road. I’d moved in for a close up by the door; we practically bumped into one another. I’m fond of her and my greeting was warm but hers struck me as guarded; face a little tense as she hurried away. Had I offended her somehow? It seemed unlikely, though political blogging’s an excellent way of pissing off pals without ever meaning to.

Then it struck me. This woman stands firmly with the good guys on this as on other issues. Was she embarrassed, walking out of Waitrose into our collective embrace? The thought made me smile. I’d got here a good half hour early, you see. I kid you not, I was heading myself into the store, with flat white in mind, before the irony and what spin doctors call “the optics” caught up with me.

Best not, I decided, and headed for the less convenient alternative of a coffee bar 400 metres away. Man, things get complicated – sometimes absurdly so – when political principles trickle down, through the filters of moral angst, to the warp and weft of daily existence.

Part of life’s rich tapestry I guess. But all the supermarkets are culpable. Guess where we went after making our point at Waitrose.

* * *

4 Replies to “Boycott, Divest and Waitrose

  1. Greetings Phil,
    please forgive my sparse commentary, but as you probably find there is just SO much to read and digest…..
    But as you mentioned your own feelings towards HAMAS in todays offering, and I had just received an e-mail regarding a post by a fellow SAFA who I follow on Substack, I thought I would forward the link:

    • Thanks Billy. This jumps right out:

      Palestine is the cause of a people who have been let down by a world that fails to secure their rights and restore to them what has been usurped from them, a people whose land continues to suffer one of the worst types of occupation in this world.

      Palestine is a land that was seized by a racist, anti-human and colonial Zionist project that was founded on a false promise (the Balfour Declaration), on recognition of a usurping entity and on imposing a fait accompli by force.

  2. Palestinians, as everyone reading this bog knows, have been subjected to the most appalling oppression and brutal occupation for longer than any other country or people. I can’t remember whether I’ve mentioned this here before but Chomsky gave a talk in the ’80s, not long after the Sabra and Shatila massacres. I asked him, as the son of Jewish immigrants to the US, what he had to say about this. He said simply – ‘The persecuted have become the persecutor – it’s always this way.’ So when you say ‘Up with Hamas’ aren’t you really saying ‘Up with the fight against injustice’? (which doesn’t have the same ring I admit.) As after so long living under an apartheid of such injustice and brutality, any young Palestinians brought up in trauma and fear will either fall into depression or rage. What other option is open to them? Though I always remember Nelson Mandela saying – be very angry but make sure you direct that anger against the systems not the people. But maybe even that collapses under the appalling level of endless injustice that the world has refused to deal with for over 70 years. And anyway… what the hell are we bombing Yemen for? One of the poorest nations on Earth. To me the cold hearted bombing by US and the UK is more evil than the instinctual rage of a people who have no other option available to them. But to refer to another of your great posts – I am heartbroken by it all. But I reserve the right to say this because I have been aware of the terrible suffering of the Palestinian people for a long time. It is not just hand wringing by a privileged liberal. And I have worked hard in another arena to generate love for life. Though I’m more of a warrior on the inner plane than someone who fights the battle in the way you and many others do. Respect to all of you dialectical materialist radical truth-sayers, however you like to be described – from a mystic warrior who conducts a shamanic guerrilla war in another realm. We are on the same side even if our tactics and strategies differ. It takes sameness and common ground to meet each other yet it’s our differences that make that meeting meaningful and worthwhile. And so your political blogging is gratefully received by me and I appreciate your work even if I disagree sometimes. Because we’re on the same side in the fight for freedom for all life.

    • Thanks Anne. Much to mull over here, not least your observation and Chomsky’s that oppression begets oppression. The psychological damage wrought by capitalism in its imperialist stage doesn’t get nearly enough sustained attention.

      As for my response to the man shouting ‘Down with Hamas’, I fear my motives were at best mixed. Moreover, a friend of Muslim heritage wrote to caution me that shouting ‘Up with Hamas’ could get me arrested under current legislation. Since it could also be used against gatherings like yesterday’s at Waitrose, I’ll hold my tongue in future …

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