The coordinators of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) South Africa have hailed the overwhelming support shown by the South African community towards their campaign to economically cripple the state of Israel. Local Palestinian sympathisers have come out strongly against companies with affiliations to the oppressive state, as anger continues to mount over Israel’s intensive assault on Gaza.
However, many locals have queried the approach of the BDS campaign, expressing confusion at why they were being asked to boycott only certain Israeli products. Some have raised concerns that the campaign would not have the desired impact on Israel’s economy.
But according to BDS coordinator, Muhammad Desai, the group were taking a more targeted and systematic approach, instead of an all round boycott of Israeli products. He suggested a more selective approach would be far more effective in getting their message across, sighting the approach of the anti-Apartheid campaign against South Africa in the 1980’s.
“This campaign provides a concrete way for us to hold Israel accountable for it’s general impunity regarding war crimes, and human rights issues,” he said.
Desai said there was a huge misconception amongst the community that all companies owned by Jews should be boycotted. The campaign was not against directed at people of a specific faith, but rather companies or individuals who refused to cut economic ties with Israel.
“What does fulfil BDS campaign criteria, at least when it comes to supermarkets, is having an Israeli trade relationship. Now although many of our supermarkets do currently have trade relations with Israel, to boycott every single supermarket would make our impact very weak,” he said.
Desai said the BDS were concentrating its efforts towards a consumer front, and he called on the community to join them in the boycott of three major companies, namely Woolworths, Sodastream and G4S.
He highlighted in particular the success of the campaign against G4S, with both the Methodist Church, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates having divested their shares in the company. He urged community members to approach their local business owners, and request that they rescind their contracts with G4S.
“The fact that you’re a customer to the businesses, use that as an opportunity to highlight to the butcher, baker, or supermarket that G4S is an international company that’s complicit in Israel’s prison systems, torture centres, and detention facilities.”
Beyond participating in the BDS campaign, Desai urged members of the community to be conscious consumers, taking note of the labelling of products to determine their origin. He noted that if that information was not clearly visible on the packaging itself, consumers would had the right to hold the store accountable and demand that the product be removed from its shelves. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)