At the briefing in Sandton, BDS South Africa said that Woolworths was undermining their international commitments by continued trade with Israel.
BDS South Africa stands for Boycott, divestment and sanctions in South Africa and is a member of the National Coalition 4 Palestine (NC4P). Woolworths [JSE:WHL] has filed a court application against the organisation “to protect our employees and customers from increasing unlawful protests inside its stores”.
A group of concerned businessmen believe taking activists to court should have been the last option, BDS SA said on twitter.
Woolworths shareholder Nadia Hassan said management should have met with activists before taking court action.
Marthie Momberg, who is a private Woolworths shareholder, said he was concerned about the company’s direction with the regard to the boycott. “Ethics start where the law starts,” BDS SA quote him on Twitter as saying. “As a shareholder, I expect integrity from Woolworths.”
“South Africans have a special role to play in expressing our support for Palestinians,” he said.
BDS SA spokesperson Allan Horwitz said Israel violated the rights of Palestinians and other minorities. “This is escalating,” he said. “Boycott is a non-violent response.”
Horwitz said: “As Jews, we have a responsibility in terms of the anti-apartheid struggle [and we] won’t tolerate Israel acting in our name.”
He said Woolworths claimed to be an ethical company. “[It] makes sense for them to be in [the] forefront of [the] campaign,” he was quoted by BDS SA on Twitter as saying.
Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said Palestinians were living their own Apartheid, which is why companies like Woolworths should take an ethical stand against Israel.
He said a Cosatu office bearer had a Woolworths share and would be attending the AGM on November 26.
“Whatever happens to Cosatu over next few months, rest assured our commitment to Palestine remains,” he was quoted by BDS SA on Twitter as saying.
Craven told business people that there were more important things to look after than their share price. “In the long run, it will be good for Woolworths,” he said.
BDS SA co-ordinator Muhammed Desai said the Boycott Woolworths Campaign was not malicious. He said the BDS against Israel had numerous victories internationally and locally. “We thought Woolies would have sourced locally by now,” he said.
“Woolies tried to wish away the campaign and stuck their heads in the sand,” BDS SA quoted him on Twitter as saying.
Desai said Woolworths could have accepted numerous requests for a meeting to resolve the Boycott Woolworths Campaign, but refused.
He said BDS SA would fight the court action, labeling it corporate bullying tactics.
Desai said the founder of Woolworths was a Jewish businessman who supported boycott against Nazis. He said the company had boycotted “rouge regimes” before and was in their DNA to do so.
He quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “If you remain neutral in the face of oppression, you’ve joined the side of the oppressor.”
Desai said 50 BDS SA members would attend the Woolworths AGM. “Woolworths must end all relations with Israel,” he said. “BDS SA will create environment to negotiate a just peace.”