This weekend, U.K. supermarket Sainsbury’s stripped its kosher food shelves bare, fearing the products would be damaged by protesters outside the store calling for a ban on Israeli products, the Daily Mail reports. British actor Colin Appleby posted a photo of the Holborn store’s empty shelf on Facebook and Twitter, adding that when asked about the barren section, a staff member told him, “We support Free Gaza.” Many took to social media to denounce the store and call their decision an act of anti-Semitism.
The store’s action came on the same day that demonstrations against the stocking of Israeli food at a Tesco store in Birmingham got out of control, with protestors throwing produce on the ground, causing the store to close for several minutes. Protests for the boycott of Israeli goods have reportedly taken place at other Tesco stores across the U.K. recently as well.
Appleby returned to the store on Saturday evening and reported that the shelf had been restocked and that he was assured the employee who made the Free Gaza comment had been “suitably chastised.” A spokesperson for the supermarket chain, however, told the Daily Mail that there was “no evidence” a staff member made the comment, and insisted that the decision was made to prevent damage to the food. “A decision was taken by a store manager faced with a challenging situation outside the store,” the spokesperson said.
Sainsbury’s released the following statement this morning:
“We would like to apologise for any inconvenience or offence caused. The decision was taken in one store only to move these chilled products to cold storage elsewhere in that store for a short period on Saturday as a precautionary measure during a demonstration close by. They were returned to shelf as soon as was practically possible. Our ambient (store cupboard temperature) kosher range was kept on sale in store throughout. As a non-political organisation, Sainsbury’s would never take such a decision on grounds other than ensuring the quality or safety of our products.”
Isabel Fattal, a former intern at Tablet Magazine, attends Wesleyan University.