Johannesburg - A Palestinian solidarity group has started an aggressive social media campaign, calling for consumers to boycott Woolworths because it imports products from Israel.
On Tuesday, BDS (Boycott. Divestment. Sanctions.) South Africa sent out its call in a newsletter and on Twitter, where the hashtag #BoycottWoolworths trended for a short time.
According to the BDS campaign manifesto, Woolworths imports several of its products from Israel, including figs, coriander, litchis, plums and mangoes.
The non-profit organisation says that choosing to buy from the food retailer is tantamount to “buying from apartheid South Africa in the 1980s and claiming to be apolitical”.
One of the ways in which the organisation urged shoppers to react in Woolworths stores was to take products imported from Israel through the cashier and then refuse to pay for them, forcing the sale to be reversed.
The organisation also urged non-violent protests at stores and encouraged demonstrators to engage with workers and managers at the shops to inform them of their alleged wrongful practices.
Woolworths has responded, saying it has no political affiliations.
In a statement on Tuesday, the company said: “We respect our customers’ right to make individual purchasing choices, which is why we clearly label every product’s country of origin and fully comply with government guidelines on products from Israel.
“Less than 0.1 percent of our food is sourced from Israel.”
In reaction, SA Jewish Board of Deputies chairwoman Mary Kluk said: “Taking out your frustration on local companies is counterproductive and divides our nation even further.”
She said companies such as Woolworths made decisions to import products from various countries based not on politics, but simply on what made financial sense.
Kluk added that the South African government had always supported efforts to bring peace in the Middle East, and this was the board’s stance too.
While the reaction on Twitter was mixed, with pro-Palestinian users joining the campaign and disseminating the hashtag, others felt that attacking a local company was unnecessary.
Some users showed images of products that had been bought from Woolworths to which they had attached anti-Israel stickers.