In the latest twist in the BDS boycott campaign against Woolworths, the pro-Palestinian lobby announced it had bought shares in the popular retailer in order to attend the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) on the 26th November. The declaration came at a press conference held on Tuesday, attended by BDS members as well as a group of current Woolworth’s shareholders. The gathering sought to provide further insight into the more than 3 month long campaign.
Also in attendance were representatives of Stop the Jewish National Fund. Organization spokesperson, Alan Horwitz, who told VOC’s Breakfast Beat that the press conference came at a particularly opportune time, when tensions between Israel and Palestine were at an all time high. The city of Jerusalem has been at the centre of the storm with several clashes taking place in recent weeks, particularly in and around the vicinity of the Masjid al-Aqsa.
“This boycott campaign comes at a time where the world really needs to give maximum support for the Palestinian struggle,” he said.
Horwitz, a Jewish South African, was especially concerned by the degeneration taking place in the region, as the extreme right-wing in Israel moved towards shutting off any possible accommodation of Palestinian rights. With support gradually growing amongst the international community towards the Palestinian cause, he suggested Israel were heading down a path of global isolation.
According to Horwitz, this made the campaign against Woolworths of even more paramount importance. He noted South Africa’s own experiences with a global boycott campaign, which contributed greatly towards the downfall of the Apartheid regime.
“We hope that Woolworths, especially at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) that takes place next week in Cape Town, will open its mind to this problem. Ethical and social investment is a very useful tool for those who believe in non-violent change,” he proclaimed.
Since the start of the campaign in early August, Woolworths have vehemently denied its support for Israel, maintaining that it remains apolitical. In a bid to address shareholder concerns, the retailer issued a statement on Tuesday in which they deplored the loss of life in the recent Gaza conflict. But the company also sought to highlight the strength and diversity of the Woolworths brand, noting that it had billions of shares scattered across the globe. They were also critical of the BDS boycott, once again accusing the lobby group of being intimidator towards costumers and staff.
“I think Woolworth’s argument is misleading. The fact is although they have shareholders across all class, color and religious lines, that should not be an excuse for the company to refuse to take a stand,” stressed Horwitz, in response to the retailer’s statement.
He further urged members of the community to maintain their support for the campaign, and not be deterred by the criticism of those who ‘support the unsupportable’.
“We would like to believe that Woolworth’s products are not just environmentally ‘clean’, but are also free of moral stain to the origin of the products they are selling,” he added. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)