BOYCOTT WOOLWORTHS CAMPAIGN
What is Woolworths relationship with Israel:
Woolworths sources products and produce from Israeli companies in violation of the international BDS consumer boycott. Amongst other items, Woolworths imports Pretzels, Couscous, Matzos, Coriander, Figs, Litchis, Plums and Mangoes from Israel. According to the human rights organization, Who Profits, almost all of Israel’s agricultural companies have illegal operations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
What has Woolworths response been to the boycott:
To date Woolworths has refused to make available the Israeli suppliers that it sources its products from. Sadly, Woolworths has also refused to meet with BDS South Africa and organizers of the #BoycottWoolworths campaign. However, sources from within Woolworths have indicated that the company is feeling the impact of the campaign both at a PR level and on a financial level.
Why boycott Woolworths over other retailers: Similar to the 1980s anti-apartheid movement, the BDS movement selects campaigns after careful analysis and strategic considerations. Several retailers in South Africa have some sort of trade relationship with Israel. We can try to boycott all of them but this is a daunting task that has a slim chance of having a concrete impact. Thus we focus our campaigns and move from one target to another as we reach our goals. Selecting Woolworths, for example, does not mean that other South African supermarkets do not stock Israeli products.
Part of the reason for campaigning and calling on Woolworths to end their Israeli trade relations is because Woolworths tries to sell itself as an "ethical company". Surely the ethics that Woolworths claims to support include not trading with companies of a country like Israel that routinely abuses human rights? We are calling on Woolworths to respect the Palestinian boycott of Israel, take the lead and end its trade relations with Israel and set an example for other South African retailers.
II. HOW DOES A CONSUMER BOYCOTT WORK
The call for the boycott of Woolworths is for a complete boycott. The issue is not with the Israeli tomato or avocado in a Woolworths store - it is with Woolworths as a company having a trade relationship with Israel. The call for the boycott of Woolworths is for a complete boycott of all Woolworths stores and products, not just Woolworths Food Stores.
II. WOOLWORTHS ACTING RECKLESSLY
Woolworths is maintaining its trade with Israel (for produce that is available elsewhere) and ignoring the requests by its consumers, South African civil society and several Government Ministers. This approach by the management of Woolworths is tarnishing the image of the company and jeopardizing the share price of the firm (which has dropped consistently since the #BoycottWoolworths campaign). This will certainly be deemed to be reckless management when Woolworths could have, firstly, met with BDS South Africa and secondly, resolved this issue by sourcing its products either locally or from other countries. Woolworths is coming across as unconcerned and indifferent to customer retention.
Woolworths claims to “believe in the principle of responsible citizenship.” However, importing products from Israeli companies in violation of the international boycott of Israel called by the indigenous Palestinians contradicts this principle.
III. WHAT WOULD WOOLWORTHS HAVE DONE DURING APARTHEID?
It would seem that Woolworths is not interested in aligning itself with human rights and ethical, responsible business practices. Woolworths has tried to suggest that it is following government policy. However, government policy is the minimum that a company should respect; we would expect a company such as Woolworths to go beyond the minimum when it comes to respecting human rights and the wishes of consumers.
If Woolworths was a company based in, say, the UK, during apartheid, would Woolworths have adopted the position that it is "apolitical" (as it has done recently regarding Israel)? Would Woolworths not have respected the South African liberation struggle's call for a boycott of Apartheid South African goods (regardless of whether the UK Government had officially called for that boycott or not)?
In a statement issued on 30 July 2014, Woolworths defended its sourcing of products from Israeli companies stating that it “has no political affiliations.” Buying from Israel, when many other markets are available (including local markets), is an endorsement of that country’s practices. Imagine buying from Apartheid South Africa during the 1980s and claiming to be "apolitical”. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has famously said: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
IV. ABOUT BDS
In 2005, with Israel's occupation, human rights abuses, violations of international law and illegal Israeli settlement activity increasing, Palestinians (inspired by the successful boycott and isolation of Apartheid South Africa) called on the international community to support a non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and its companies until Israel complies with international law and respects human rights.
The Palestinian-led and internationally-backed BDS campaign is a practical, non-violent, goal-orientated, focused and strategic campaign to hold the State of Israel accountable to international law and human rights. The BDS campaign is also increasingly supported by (progressive) Israelis. The international isolation of Israel it is hoped will lead to the necessary conditions for a just peace to be negotiated - similar to what occurred in South Africa and brought about a democratic country for all our people
V. BDS SUCCESSES
BDS has reached a tipping point. In the last few months alone, BDS-related successes include the decision by the Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Church to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation. This was followed by the world's richest person, Bill Gates, withdrawing his entire stake (more than 2 billion rands) from a security company (G4S) involved in Israel's human rights abuses.
Earlier this year the second largest ($200 billion) Dutch pension fund, PGGM, divested from five Israeli banks and a month earlier the largest Danish bank, Danske, blacklisted Israel's Hapoalim bank. In January the Norwegian sovereign fund, the largest in the world, divested from two Israeli companies that were part of its portfolio.
In July 2014, TESCO, the UK’s largest supermarket chain, decided to stop selling Israeli products originating from the OPT. In July 2013, three major supermarket chains in the Netherlands Aldi, Hoogvliet and Jumbo announced that they will no longer sell products coming from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In April 2012, UK supermarket chains “The Co-op” adopted a complete boycott of Israeli companies. Last year, the South African agricultural company Karsten Farms terminated its relations with Israel's Hadiklaim in 2013.