Following the announcement made by the human rights NGO Africa4Palestine calling for an end to the boycott of Woolworths (Woolies) stores after the retailer said it would not be stocking products from Israel, the retailer shared its views with Business Report.
Woolies said on Friday that media articles claiming that Woolworths supports an Israeli boycott are inaccurate.
“We want to set the record straight. Despite reports commending us for taking a pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli position – we have not. Woolworths would like to explicitly affirm that we neither support nor boycott anyone. Woolworths has no political affiliations and does not support any political party, organisation or country,” the retailer said.
“In a world that is already polarised and where misinformation, misunderstanding, and suffering are fuelling heightened emotion, we refuse to add to the division and divisiveness. Many of us have been deeply affected in various ways by the atrocities and death of innocent people we are witnessing on our screens. Intolerance is on the rise and, we as an organisation, cannot and will not add fuel to the fire, and will always continue to seek ways to bring people together,” the popular store chain went on to say.
Woolworths did confirm that it would be suspending the sale of Israeli products at its stores.
“As always, the safety and wellbeing of our employees and customers is our top priority. Given the significant and credible threats we have received, and in order to do our best to safeguard our employees and customers, we took the decision to pre-emptively suspend the sale of the one product we had on our shelves that was imported from Israel. Woolies always endeavours to do the right thing by our employees, our customers and society at large. We continue to do this as we navigate these very challenging times,” Woolworths said.
Africa4Palestine released a statement on Thursday evening, welcoming the decision of Woolworths not to stock Israeli products.
The NGO stated, “In a formal letter received by Africa4Palestine, the CEO of Woolworths, Mr Roy Bagattini, has confirmed that Woolworths is no longer stocking Israeli products”.
“He stated that there is currently not one single product on their shelves from Israel: “We do not have any products on our shelves that are for sale that have been imported from Israel. Not stocking products from Israel aligns with the principles of ethical consumerism,” the NGO said.
EFF leader Julius Malema has been outspoken on the conflict taking place in the Middle East and called for a boycott of Woolworths and McDonald’s stores in October.
Malema wanted Woolworths stores to remove every Israeli product on their shelves, as well as making calls to cut ties with companies linked to Israel.
“Woolworths has a responsibility by the end of this month to remove every product on their shelves that comes from Israel. If they don’t, we will remove it ourselves,” Malema said.
In Parliament on Thursday, parties were split in the middle when they debated the EFF-sponsored motion on whether South Africa should close the Israel embassy and cut diplomatic ties with the country.
EFF leader Julius Malema said they tabled the draft resolution understanding that later when the full plenary of Parliament sits, the House would vote hopefully in their favour.
He said their call was based on brutal and inhumane violence that Israel unleashed on Palestinians over the past several weeks.
This was hours before President Cyril Ramaphosa confirmed that the South African government had put through a referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the Israeli government.
“We cannot sit back and watch the genocidal actions of the Israeli regime.
President Ramaphosa has stated clearly that the ANC-led government as well as the ANC does not condone any form of violence directed at citizens. We welcome the fact that in this intervention South Africa is not alone it has the support of other nations. We reiterate our call for a ceasefire for humanitarian corridors to be fully operational.
“Given the unfolding atrocities in occupied Palestine, the African National Congress will agree to a parliamentary motion which calls upon the government to close the Israel embassy in South Africa and suspend all diplomatic relations with Israel until Israel agrees to a ceasefire and commits to binding United Nations facilitated negotiations whose outcome must be a just, sustainable and lasting peace,” the ANC said in a statement.