BDS to Take Center Stage at South African Retailer's Shareholder Meet

Advocates of an Israel boycott have bought shares of Woolworths and plan to pressure it to stop selling Israeli goods.

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Shoppers pass the entrance to a Woolworths Holdings Ltd. retail store at the Sandton City Center in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Dec. 20, 2013.
Shoppers pass the entrance to a Woolworths Holdings Ltd. retail store at the Sandton City Center in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Dec. 20, 2013.Credit: Bloomberg

Woolworths shareholders are planning to use the South African retailer's annual general meeting this month to tell it to stop selling figs, pretzels and pomegranates from Israel.

According to a report in Bloomberg News, supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel have bought shares in the company, and intend to pressure management to stop the sale of Israeli goods. The meeting is scheduled for November 26 in Cape Town, where Woolworths is based.

“The call for Woolworths to terminate relations with Israel is part of a non-violent response to the Israeli regime,” Muhammed Desai, national coordinator of Boycott Divestment Sanctions South Africa, told Bloomberg. “We’d like to convince them that it doesn’t make business sense to hold on to that trade.”

Woolworths has been targeted by BDS activists before, with nearly 60 protesters having been arrested in Johannesburg in October for demonstrating against the sale of Israeli goods. Also last month, members of the Congress of South African Students Western Cape branch placed a pig’s head in the meat department of a Woolworth’s as part of the anti-Israel protests.

BDS activists called for a boycott of Woolworths in August, while the retailer filed a court application to prevent protests in its stores, according to Bloomberg.

“The three products we currently source from Israel, namely: pretzels, figs and pomegranates, are clearly labelled for customer choice,” Woolworths told Bloomberg in an e-mail. “We have no political affiliations. We fully comply with the South African government guidelines on product from Israel and the Middle East.”

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