The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) are planning a second national day of protest against retail outlet Woolworths, in protest of the company’s refusal to remove Israeli products from its shelves. They are hoping to mobilize the public towards attending any of the more than 40 protest actions being planned for this coming Saturday, the 27th September.
Woolworths has been the target on a strategic boycott by the BDS, over what it deemed as the retailers “unwavering support for the Apartheid State of Israel”. This comes after Woolworths rejected calls from pro-Palestinian activists to cut its trade ties with all Israeli companies. Since the boycott was initiated on the 5th August, local Palestinian sympathisers have staged numerous protests outside the retailers various branches, most notably staging a mass cut-up of their Woolworths store cards.
BDS coordinator, Mohammed Desai, hailed the various communities who had mobilized around the campaign, describing their response to the boycott as “absolutely terrific”. Having spoken to insiders from within Woolworths itself, he said they had received positive feedback that the campaign was having a substantial public relations impact, as well as a notable financial impact for the company. Some reports have indicated that Woolworths has seen a 4% drop in sales since the start of the boycott.
“4% for a major retailer like Woolworths is quite a substantial amount. So we do want to intensify the campaign in the next few weeks, and force Woolworths to come through and end that relationship with Israel,” he said.
The trade relationship between Woolworths and Israeli companies is reported to be valued at more than R12 million, with most of that constituting the sale of agricultural goods. Desai suggested that much of those products could, and should be sourced from local companies instead.
He also noted that in many parts of Europe, an agricultural boycott of Israeli produce had shown itself to be particularly successful. Many Israeli exporters have faced heavy economic pressure and potential bankruptcy as a result. He said it imperative that South Africans built up a similar kind of momentum in their boycott campaign.
The boycott has received the backing of not only the ruling ANC party, but the entire Tripartite Alliance as well. Desai noted that the alliance had recently issued a call for an intensification of the consumer and retail boycott.
“In particular, the ANC led alliance went on to ask workers both in the transport and retail sector, not to touch Israeli goods,” he noted.
He called on members of the public to join the BDS at the various picket protests. He also advised them to get into contact with family members and friends, to advise them about the Boycott Woolworths campaign, and the planned national day of protest.
“We hope that members of the community will join us in this realization that we need a long term impact, and we mustn’t just come out to the streets when there are attacks on Gaza. We must maintain our momentum throughout the year, because the Israeli government is maintaining its oppression throughout the year,” he said.
During the previous national day of protest, the BDS received complaints surrounding protestors showing aggression security and Woolworth staff at the various stores. Desai urged people to show restraint this time around, stressing that staff members themselves were not the target of the protest.
The ANYCL will be organizing a protest outside the Woolworths head offices in the Western Cape on Saturday. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)