2014.11.12 | 18 Muharram 1436 H
Guest Contributor Saajida Malvina weighs into the Boycott Woolworths debacle.
A boycott is an act of voluntarily abstaining from purchasing, using, or dealing with a person, company, organisation or country as an expression of protest. For the past 4 months Palestinian solidarity groups have called on people to boycott Woolworths stores, and at the end of each month protest action has been held outside the store.
Last month's action was marred with intimidation and violence in Durban and Johannesburg. Protesters dispersing from Durban’s Pavilion Mall were manhandled and subjected to aggressive behaviour from the mall's security. Sixty protesters who were getting into their vehicles after the protest held at Killarney Mall in Gauteng were arrested by the police and taken to Hillbrow police station. This prompted anger with people holding a vigil outside, whilst others took to social media prompting a #BDS60 campaign. The protesters were freed.
Woolworths has been targeted for its role in importing goods from Israel. Whilst this is compliant with South African law, it has refused to meet the ideals of Palestinian solidarity forums. South Africa’s foot traffic to the store has decreased and it has been noted the store is having a sale for the 4th consecutive month. During the September/October period Woolworths had a drop of R621 794.54 in their MYSchool loyalty program. Business Times reports that the store had a drop in sales, but stopped short of saying if it was due to the boycott.
Success of boycotts
-GILT, a leading online shopping website which has 6 million users announced that the company has dropped Ahava products. They are made from the Dead Sea in occupied territory.
-Kuwait has announced it's intention to drop ties with 50 companies who have close ties with the apartheid state of Israel including Volvo, Heidelberg Cement and Pizzaroti.
-Ahava products are no longer available in South Africa. They closed stores suddenly after an intense campaign to boycott their products. Two major retailers in U.K. and one in Canada also stopped selling Ahava products.
-Norway, Sweden and Holland have pulled out their retirement funds Israeli companies.
-In early 2014 Aruts Sheva reported that the boycott has cost the Israeli agricultural sector 100 million shekels or $30 million.
-John Lewis one of Britain's leading retailers have stopped selling Sodastream products whilst it's eco store closed in Brighton (Britain).
-An intense campaign internationally to boycott Sodastream has resulted in the company closing it's controversial factory on illegal settlement in the West bank. The boycott continues due to the company relocating in the Negev district home to thousands of Bedouins who are in the process of being displaced. The Israeli government has given Sodastream $20 million to reconstruct the factory on occupied territory.
What can you do?
The global movement for boycott began in the early 2000's and gained momentum by 2005 as a viable and peaceful strategy. It allows ordinary people to play a meaningful role against injustice as was done in the 80's during apartheid in South Africa.
It is challenging to boycott each and every company for being complicit with apartheid; hence a guideline of choosing 10 companies would be more effective than trying to boycott all and failing initially. Example: Woolworths - boycott the retailer until it takes the moral ground and stops selling goods from occupied territory, especially since they claim to engage in fair trade. There might not be bombs falling at the moment, but the situation is always tense with provocations from Israel, which could lead to an intifada. Rather try and fail than fail to try.
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