PRESS RELEASE: Woolworths threat to take legal action against BDS South Africa "ludicrous"
The Palestine solidarity and human rights organization, BDS South Africa, consider the threats made by Woolworths to take legal action against our organization and against the organizers of the growing #BoycottWoolworths campaign as ludicrous. BDS South Africa, the National Coalition 4 Palestine, COSATU, SACP, YCL, ANC Youth League and various other organizations have called for a boycott of Woolworths until it ends its R12 million trade relations with Israel. The termination of relations with Israel is called for as part of the international non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign which seeks to peacefully isolate Israel until Israel respects international law and Palestinian human rights. The BDS campaign is inspired by the successful isolation of Apartheid South Africa. Firstly,
the accusation that staff members of BDS South Africa have acted in a violent way towards the staff of Woolworths is ludicrous. If there was any truth to the statement Woolworths should have gone to the local authorities like the SA Police Services and laid charges. The fact that Woolworths has not laid charges makes their threat suspicious - they are simply trying to besmirch the good name of BDS South Africa. It is irresponsible for Woolworths, a major corporation, to spread such mis-truths in the media and to make such accusations against a non-violent, peaceful human rights organization such as BDS South Africa. Secondly,
to try and suppress singing, dancing, flashmobs and protest actions outside stores of Woolworths because Woolworths is uncomfortable is essentially a suppression and denial of our freedom to protest. Our forefathers fought hard for the right to protest and we will not be intimidated by a corporation like Woolworths. We condemn all forms of violence but mantain that we have not embarked on violent action.
Thirdly, let us remind Woolworths, the protests against Apartheid were never the problem or the crime. The crime and problem was Apartheid. Likewise, the problem is not the non-violent peaceful protests against Woolworths. The problem is Woolworths trade relationship with Israel a country many of our senior leaders including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others have compared to Apartheid South Africa.
Fourthly, it is an out-right lie that Woolworths has been open to meeting and resolving this issue with BDS South Africa. To date Woolworths has refused to meet with BDS South Africa and this is concerning for a company such as Woolworths that claims to respect communities, various viewpoints and conduct their business responsibly.
Fifthly, whilst the South African Government may not as yet have initiated a formal boycott against Israel we have the ruling party of the country, the ANC, calling for a full boycott of Israel by its highest decision making body, the ANC NEC. This ANC policy will now become State policy. However regardless of whether Government has a formal boycott of Israel position, let us ask Woolworths, if it was company based in, say, the UK, during apartheid, would Woolworths have adopted the position that their responsibility ends with what the UK government approach is to Apartheid? 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 called for that boycott or not)? To boycott Israel is not a crime or against any Government policy.
We have engaged with various workers of Woolworths who have fully lent their support to this campaign. We mantain that the responsibility to find an amicable solution lies with Woolworths. The corporation, not the protests, are the problem. We reiterate that this issue can easily be resolved. Woolworths can meet with BDS South Africa, end the sourcing of products from Israel (and rather choose to source those products either locally or from other countries). We are only, as BDS South Africa, engaging in non-violent protest action due to Woolworths refusal to meet with us and to heed the call to end its relations with Israel.
We trust that media that are coving this issue will cover the viewpoint of BDS South Africa and not just that of the corporation, Woolworths. Click here to watch a video of a recent #BoycottWoolworths flashmob: http://tinyurl.com/m89vtvo