Shoks Mnisi Mzolo – Cii News | 22 Muharram 1436/15 November 2014

Pro-Palestinian activists, calling for an end to apartheid and subjugation in the Middle East, have taken their boycott campaign against Woolworths a step further. A host of organisations this week sent a letter to Woolworths CEO Ian Moir, urging the retailer to stop sourcing products from Israel due to that state’s Zionist policies that has relegated Palestinians into sub-humans. Palestinians continue to endure what is termed “collective punishment”, in the form of back-to-back massacres, house demolitions, desecration of places of worship, blockade and apartheid checkpoints.

Woolworths, accused of refusing to meet with the pro-justice Boycott Disinvestment and Sanction (BDS) lobby, was targeted because it buys dairy products from Israel. This, asserts anti-apartheid lobbyists, boosts the Zionist rule now under conservative Binyamin Netanyahu. Like his Zionist forebears, Netanyahu doesn’t recognise the existence of the people of Palestine.

Without hearing out BDS and other pro-Palestinian entities, opposed to holocaust and subjugation, Woolworths took the boycott campaign to court to stop it dead in its track. In their letter to Moir, the likes of South African Muslim Network (Samnet) along religious- and civil-based organisations, under the banner of the large National Coalition for Palestine, reiterated their objection to Woolworths’ continued trade links with Israel which is now infamous for its brutality and atrocities.

“When the assault on Gaza started, just a few weeks before Ramadaan, we had started to talk about implementing the BDS campaign. And it had been running in terms of Soda Stream, in terms of G4S Security and all of those Dead Sea products,” Samnet head Dr Faisal Suliman told Sabahul Khair. The likes of Soda Stream and G4S have also been hit by BDS movement especially in Europe.

“As we saw those massacres and onslaught continue people, after some meetings, decided that we have to continue and extend the boycott movement,” he said. “For whatever reason… Woolworths was chosen, it could have been one of the other three but it was not strategically or practically possible to say lets boycott all four. It wouldn’t have been sustainable. As it is we, sadly, still have Muslims who shop at Woolworths and others who are pro-Palestinian at heart but (not boycotting Woolworths).”

Suliman, and other supporters of the boycott, are not deterred. The interdict, he said, was upsetting to the more than 40 entities that made up the National Coalition for Palestine but also bolstered their resolve to boycott the retailer. “Every masjid is a forum. Every jummuah lecture is a forum. Every big night lecture is a forum. Every radio station is a forum in which we can still spread the word. We can still say to people this is the right thing to do. Let’s break the back of Woolworths. Let’s make sure that we send a clear, unequivocal message to Woolworths that it is just not worth the effort (to buy Israeli products),” Suliman said adding that it was time that people invested in the retailer should asked tough questions and took some action.

He concluded that the retailer – whose boycott by the BDS movement gained further impetus when Samnet and others started boycotting Woolies almost five months ago, at the outset of the IDF bloodshed that claimed 2,150 mostly civilian Palestinian lives in Gaza (including 500 children, some at play) – is paying the price.

“I know the detractors will say it isn’t, and Woolworths themselves would say it isn’t (successful) but it has been. There’s been a drop in turnover. The brand value of Woolworths has suffered massively, massively. There’s no question,” said Suliman, citing his own household as an example. “They’ve lost brand value, they’ve lost customers for a business that is everything and they continue to do so. If we can urge people – notwithstanding the fact that, as we know now, that Woolworths has gone and got a court interdict against the BDS movement for trying to get them to stop the boycott – to stay away.”

According to EWN, Woolworths has claimed its action was necessary to protect its customers.

Paula Disberry, group girector: retail operations at Woolworths told the network, “The unlawful protest actions inside our stores have had a profound effect on many of our employees and customers. We respect the right of BDS to protest, but we are seeking to prevent protests inside our stores. ”

“Unfortunately their campaign has extended beyond raising awareness and includes actions such as intimidation of customers and employees, restricting access and preventing customers from shopping. Products have also been damaged. The recent statements by BDS to ramp up their protest action has given us no choice but to take legal steps. It is our responsibility to ensure that our customers and employees feel safe in our stores, free of disruption, abuse and intimidation.”

The retailer said it had applied for the interdict because the business has a right to trade unhindered and it has a duty to protect employees and customers.