Covered in red paint to symbolize blood, a group of pro-Palestine activists staged a ‘die-in’ protest outside Woolworths headquarters on Wednesday, while scores of other pickets chanted for Israel to “stop supporting Zionist Israel”.
Pro-Palestinian supporters from the National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P), Cosatu, and the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), gathered outside the head offices in protest of the retailers continued trade relationship with Israeli based companies. The protest came as the company held its Annual General Meeting (AGM), in which shareholder activists and BDS members were also in attendance. Board members were faced with a barrage of questions from shareholders in support of the boycott, relating to the financial aspects of its trade links with Israel, as well as the ongoing boycott. They were also questioned as to the motives of maintaining the trade relationship, despite being the subject of a growing nationwide boycott. The company is thought to maintain a R12 million trade relationship with Israeli companies. However, the BDS campaign has resulted in profit loses of around R8 million a month, according to a recent impact report on the campaign.
Picketing outside Woolworths headquarters, Dr. Anis Daraghma, the curator and director of the Palestine Museum said boycotting Israeli goods was an essential form of activism. He made reference to the current political landscape in the occupied territories, saying Israel were taking every possible measure at their disposal to displace and murder innocent Palestinians.
Further detailing the situation, he noted Israelis were now being actively encouraged to carry firearms, facing no court case or consequences should they fire upon the Palestinians.
“If a court case comes, it will be a couple of days and then they will be releases,” he said.
With that taken into account, he suggested that any such defiant stance taken by the retailer would be in support of the killing of innocent civilians.
“If you are feeding the machine that kills Palestinians, then you are encouraging it,” he said.
“Woolworth’s maintaining this relationship, and being so dogmatic about it, is a matter that’s consistent with the murder of Palestinians.”
A simultaneous solidarity protest was held outside a Woolworths store in Durban on Wednesday.
Woolworths and BDS have been locked in a bitter tussle since August, after the solidarity group called a nationwide boycott against the prominent retailer. This was in relation to its refusal to stop stocking Israeli products, in particular fresh produce. Woolworths has maintained its stance, continuously reiterating that it remains apolitical, and it has not taken sides in the Israel/Palestine issue. The retailer has also expressed its abhorrence for the loss of life in the conflict-stricken region.
Despite a court ruling barring and form of protest action from taking place within a Woolworth’s store, the campaign still poses a significant risk to the retailer ahead of the busy festive season period. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)