Woolworths to BDS: Go talk to the government

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions South Africa movement (BDS-SA) is working hard to strengthen the boycott against Woolworths, but the retailer says it has no plans to quit doing business with Israel, because it is allowed by government.

In an interview with Power FM, Woolworths’ head of communications, Suzy Squire, defended Woolworths’s right to source produce from Israel. Squire said 95% of the company’s produce is locally sourced and that only three products – pretzels, pomegranate seeds, and figs – are imported from Israel.

“We don’t want to source abroad but occasionally we need to, and look, the thing is, as I’ve said to Muhammad Desai from the BDS multiple times, we’re guided by South African government policy, as all South African retailers are,” Squire said.

BDS-SA, which campaigns to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, has caused headaches for Woolworths over the past five months.

The company has been criticised on social media for stocking Israeli-sourced produce, faced protests and boycotts from Palestinian supporters, and even been to court in a bid to prevent BDS from protesting inside its stores. Members of the Congress of South African Students even dragged severed pig heads into the aisles of its food stores to protest its sale of Israeli goods.

Despite all this, Woolworths isn’t budging.

“We will continue to be guided by the South African government in terms of the countries we can and can’t do business with,” Squire said.

Woolworths says that it is a non-political company and that the protests against Israel are “really not a matter for Woolworths”. But BDS-SA argues that Woolworths should act ethically and withdraw support for agricultural companies operating in the occupied territories.

Listen to the full interview below.

– Featured image via Wikimedia Commons