UPDATE: On Friday, 17 November 2023, Woolworths issued a statement responding to claims it supports the Israel boycott. Read the story here.
Woolworths reportedly destocks Israel products from shelves
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The multinational retailer was the subject of an intensive campaign led by the Pro-Palestine organisation, which, on Thursday, celebrated a decision reportedly commissioned by CEO Roy Bagattini to deshelve products imported from Israel.
In a post on X, which has since garnered significant traction, the organisation welcomed “the decision of Woolworths to not stock Israeli products.”
According to Africa 4 Palestine, following an inquiry into the retailer’s stance on the ongoing Gaza conflict, Bagattini reportedly 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.’,” the post read.
If, indeed, Bagattini issued this directive, it would mark the first time Woolworths directly responded to its links with Israel.
In 2014, BDS South Africa, an activist group behind the #BoycottWoolworths campaign, blasted the multinational for refusing to publish its list of suppliers for imported products, particularly pretzels, figs, pomegranates, couscous, matzos, coriander, litchis, plums, mangoes and other fresh produce.
“Part of the reason for campaigning and calling on Woolworths to end their Israeli trade relations is because Woolworths tries to sell itself as an “ethical company” that sources responsibly. Surely the ethics that Woolworths claims to support include not trading with companies of a country like Israel that routinely abuses human rights?
“We are calling on Woolworths to respect the Palestinian boycott of Israel, take the lead and end its trade relations with Israel and set an example for other South African retailers,” the activist group wrote at the time.
For close to a decade, Woolies battened under the pressure and, for the most part, ignored the ransom demands — until now, apparently.
Swisher Post contacted Woolworths to ascertain the validity of the statement issued by Africa 4 Palestine, which can be read in full below, albeit, a response had not been received when this article was published.
What is South Africa’s stance on Gaza conflict?
In the absence of Woolies’ response, South Africa, in general, has taken a vocal stance against Israel’s role in the Gaza conflict.
On Thursday, Gift of the Givers, whose on-the-ground activism in the war-torn Palestinian city has been widely lauded, released a statement confirming its head, Ahmed Abbasi and his brother, were killed while returning from morning prayer.
“We want to add that Israel should be held accountable to pay war reparation in the rebuilding of Gaza and compensate every single family they have decimated,” Gift of the Givers founder Dr Imtiaz Sooliman said.
Sooliman’s words echoed the Department of International Relations and Cooperation’s (DIRCO) position on the war. On Wednesday, DIRCO Minister Naledi Pandor, speaking to Al Jazeera, announced the South African government was toggling with the idea of referring Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
“We are appalled at how this horror and tragedy that is unfolding continues to get worse and worse. I think the world has seen enough, and it is time for the most powerful in the world to put a stop to this horror that Israel is unfolding against the people of Palestine,” she said.
The latest data from Gaza suggests more than 11 100 Palestinians have died as a direct result of the ongoing war, since 7 October 2023, when Hamas led an incursion against Israeli festivalgoers.