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First South African Church to commit to BDS

In a historic step the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) issued a clear statement in support of the non-violent Palestinian struggle. The church’s national conference approved the resolution on 10 July 2016.

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Rev. Thulani Ndlazi, Synod Secretary of UCCSA, speaking at the conference

The declaration names the danger of Christian Zionism and its literal reading of the Bible which confuses the Old Testament’s Israelites with Jewish Israelis. ‘We hear the Palestinian Christians’ appeal for help,’ they say, and we commit our support to the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign.

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The statement is the first of its kind by a South African church.

Earlier South African Methodists also urged their circuits to “study the Palestinian Kairos Document that calls for divestment of Israel to end the occupation by Israeli in Palestine” (2013 Yearbook, 3.4:93-95). They also encourage those who undertake “Holy Land Pilgrimages” to have meaningful engagements with the Palestinian community. Yet the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) does not ask people to consider the requests of the Palestinian Kairos Document. UCCSA acknowledges their requests, it affirms the call for creative, non-violent resistance and it commits publically.

What makes it even more historic is the fact that UCCSA was the only South African church who publicly supported the now historic South African Kairos call of 1985.  In it South African theologians asked the world to help end apartheid. The world listened and it helped. In recent years the churches of the world have started to speak up about fundamentalist, Zionist readings of the Bible that support Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.

The statement by UCCSA on Palestine is a welcome prophetic step. It reads as follows:

We pledge our support to the Palestinian people as follows at this 8th South African Synod Conference of UCCSA in George, South Africa:
  • We recognize that the Palestinian struggle is not simply a conflict, but an asymmetric struggle between an oppressor and the oppressed. The oppression entails a decades’ long institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians in the occupied territories of Palestine and also against those within Israel and those in the diaspora who are not allowed by Israel to return.
  • We hear the call of our sisters and brothers from Kairos Palestine who asked the world and in particular Christians to take a public stand against injustice in ‘A Moment of Truth – a Word of Faith, Hope and Love.’
  • We do not take an anti-Semitism position. However we are extremely concerned about fundamentalist and progressive Christian Zionism which conflate the Biblical Israel with the modern state of Israel. We call on all Christians to read the Bible responsibly so as to not trample on the human rights and the dignity of the Palestinians.  We ask Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land to meet with and to listen to the Palestinians in Bethlehem, East Jerusalem and other cities in the occupied Palestinian territory.
  • We acknowledge with gratitude the support of our Palestinian sisters and brothers in South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle.
  • With this resolution we join other churches in the world such as the Presbyterian Church, the United Methodist Church and the United Church of Christ in the United States of America as well as the United Church of Canada. With them we stand in public solidarity with the Kairos Palestine’s appeal for help and the Palestinian civil society’s call for creative non-violent resistance.
  • We pledge our support to the international Boycott Divestments Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

UCCSA

The United Congregational Church of Southern Africa is one church in five countries –Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The UCCSA was formed in 1967 but traces its origins back more than 200 years to the arrival of the first missionaries sent by the London Missionary Society to Southern Africa. Today over 500,000 members worship in over one thousand local churches across the five countries.

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Shocked South Africans call for public protest against the UK and Canadian stance on BDS

South African citizens (and many in the UK and in Canada) are – to say the least – shocked.

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Why did the Canadian and Brittish goverments pass motions to repress BDS? They must be under severe pressure from Israel and the Zionist lobby. For those who want the good things in life only for themselves and are willing to diminish a whole people in the process are really scared of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign, because it is winning rapid ground. Besides putting pressure on Israel, BDS also unmasks Israel’s lies about its longstanding, illegal oppression of the Palestinians in the name of religion and greed.

How can the UK and the Canadian goverments say that economic pressure as a way to achieve full civil and human rights for all in Israel and Palestine is illegal? The very same strategy played a huge role in ending apartheid in South Africa. Do the same countries not also have sanctions in respect of many other countries?

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In 2014 over a hundred thousand people from all walks of life took to the streets in Cape Town to raise awareness of Israel’s war on Gaza as can be seen in these photos. Now Cape Town’s Palestine Solidarity Campaign calls for a clear, public response against these goverments who supress free speech and non-violent, economic pressure on Israel through BDS:

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PRESS RELEASE:

29 February 2015

BRITISH GOVERNMENT RESORTS TO REPRESSION TO COUNTER BDS CAMPAIGN AGAINST ISRAEL

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT stated last week that it is will be illegal for “local [city] councils, public bodies, and even some university student unions … to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products, or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.”

Thus, any entities that support or participate in the global boycott of Israel or even products and companies that operate in illegal settlements will face “severe penalties.”(via “The Intercept).

It is with outrage and disappointment that we, in the South African Palestine solidarity movement, note the British government’s ban on free speech and political expression relating to public sector boycotts of Israel and its illegal settlement goods. This means that workers in British parastatal companies like British Telecom or Rail-Track or any arm of government such as the Department of Welfare, the Airports Authority, Customs & Excise, the NHS etc. could be dismissed for promoting such boycotts in the workplace and managers could be sacked for committing their branches to such actions.

Recent successful actions by pro-Palestinian groups in Britain against companies such as G4S, the notorious British security company, which operates in some Israeli prisons and illegal settlements (and shamefully, operates also in South African airports, a prison and numerous public enterprises) would be stopped in their tracks by this bill. We also note the almost immediate removal of anti -Israel Apartheid Week posters in London’s Underground this week by the London authorities following Netanyahu’s recent demands to the UK government to do so, as a sign of closer collusion between the racist Israeli government and their British counterparts.

The enormity of such a draconian crackdown in Britain on behalf of Netanyahu’s racist and increasingly fascist Apartheid Israeli government could best be judged by imagining if a similar ban had been put in place in the UK during the Apartheid years to prevent boycotts of South Africa by the British state, its organs and thousands of public sector workers. The backlash then from public sector workers would have been instant and extremely difficult to control. Sadly, the public sector in Britain is so diminished in size and the unions so cowed into subservience by decades of Thatcherite neo-liberal bludgeoning, that not much of an uproar has been heard – even from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party which is pre-occupied with internecine strife within its ranks.

No doubt, David Cameron, who is a self-confessed Zionist stalwart, calculated that his US patron and its compliant Canadian neighbour, would be right behind him. In fact Canada’s new “Liberal” government under Trudeau, almost immediately pushed a similar motion through his US-hired and bribed parliament. The US Congress, controlled now by rabid Zionist Republicans, is also pushing for blanket bans on any anti-Israeli boycotts in the US and even for the outlawing of demonstrations and media calls for such actions. These are the same governments of the West who have invaded sovereign states in the Middle East in order to achieve “regime change” and install “democracy”.

As things stand, the BDS campaign is the only meaningful and peaceful means of pressuring Israel and its Western allies to end its brutal and murderous occupation of Palestine and institute one democratic state where everyone will enjoy equal rights.

South Africans must not underestimate the implications of these Orwellian moves by the USA and its British, European client states. Their governments will use their massive economic and military influence to blackmail smaller, independent countries such as ours, to turn away from supporting the Palestinian struggle against the colonial Israeli regime and their systematic, incremental genocide.

As the stalwart anti-surveillance and freedom of speech activist, Glen Greenwald, living in exile in South America, stated in response to this British move:
“There is a very coordinated and well-financed campaign led by Israel and its supporters literally to criminalize political activism against Israeli occupation, based on the particular fear that the worldwide campaign of Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment, or BDS — modeled after the 1980s campaign that brought down the Israel-allied apartheid regime in South Africa — is succeeding”.

WE THEREFORE URGE THE ANC GOVERNMENT TO SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE BRITISH/AMERICAN CRACKDOWN ON FREE SPEECH AND TO REAFFIRM ITS SUPPORT FOR THE PALESTINIAN CIVIL SOCIETY’S CALL ON ALL PEOPLE TO BOYCOTT ISRAEL.

WE CALL ON BRITISH PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY WORKERS IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR, TO VIGOROUSLY CAMPAIGN AGAINST THEIR GOVERNMENT’S ATTACK ON BASIC DEMOCRATIC FREEDOMS OF SPEECH AND THEIR RIGHT TO PROTEST.

WE ALSO CALL UPON ALL PALESTINIAN SOLIDARITY ACTIVISTS AND SOUTH AFRICAN CITIZENS CONCERNED ABOUT THE BRITISH CRACKDOWN ON POLITICAL FREEDOMS TO SHOW THEIR OPPOSITION IN FRONT OF THE BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION IN CAPE TOWN ON FRIDAY 18 MARCH BETWEEN 13.30 AND 14.30.

Contacts: Mike Makin 0845039156 Martin Jansen 0828702025

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“We won this one together” says Desai on Virgin Active gym debacle

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After being kicked out of a Johannesburg gym on 12 August 2015 when pro-Israel supporters did not like his T-shirt, BDS South Africa’s National Coordinator said:

I am humbled by the outpouring of revolutionary love, support, advice and guidance from so many….I also humbly realise that it wasn’t necessarily done for me (nor BDS South Africa). For most people, it was simply about a principled commitment to defending our hard fought for freedoms and not giving-in to power and privilege.


Virgin Active Zapiro

Following a nationwide outcry, Virgin Active eventually took responsibility for its wrong-doing and apologised for initially denying access to BDS South Africa’s National Coordinator, Muhammed Desai to the Old Eds Virgin Active gym. Desai and BDS South Africa welcomed the company’s apology and backtrack. Says Desai:

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I’m humbled by the outpouring of revolutionary love, support, advice and guidance from friends, comrades and members of the public as well as the various media commentators, freedom of expression experts, lawyers and, of course, fellow members of the organisations that I belong to (YCL, BDS SA etc.)

However, I also humbly realise that it wasn’t necessarily done for me (nor BDS South Africa). For most people, it was simply about a principled commitment to defending our hard fought for freedoms and not giving-in to power and privilege.

No matter how horrible Howard Page and other pro-Israeli gym patrons were, this was not an issue about a “disagreement” between gym patrons over a tshirt. It was about a company unfairly siding with (or succumbing to) pressure by those who support Israel and then taking an unfair decision – as a company – in favour of one group over another. A decision that violated several constitutional rights.

This was about how power and privilege is used to suppress voices that challenge injustices, and in particular, voices that are critical of Israel’s injustices against the Palestinian people.

Finally, I take serious offence at comments by some that they were shocked to learn that I actually go to gym. But, I guess, that’s their constitutional right 🙂

———-
For the record: I never called the ENCA journalist to the gym (in fact, I never knew him nor had his details until after this issue). It was by (a very fortunate) chance that he was also there that evening (he was on his way out as he had forgotten his towel). Secondly, I did not go to the OId Eds gym because it is frequented by pro-Israeli supporters. I go to Old Eds simply because it is the closest to where I live. In fact, I have never visited another Virgin Active Gym in the whole of Johannesburg. Thirdly, I was never, as claimed, at any point on Wednesday evening aggressive or forceful. Virgin Active surveillance cameras can attest to that.

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This is a victory for freedom of expression. It is also a victory against those South Africans who think their support of Israel’s human rights crimes gives them the right to bully and harass businesses, academics, journalists, students and members of the public who voice (or even simply allow) support for BDS, the Palestinian people, or criticism of Israel.

In this instance, the pro-Israeli pressure (which Virgin Active was wrong to succumb to) back-fired with thousands taking to social media and other platforms and eventually leading the company to back-track and apologise.

Many more supporters now, more than before, wear BDS T-shirts to gym. I too did some yoga in the Old Eds Virgin Active gym earlier this week when I was in Johannesburg for the #Kairos30 Conference. Wearing a suitable T-shirt, of course, 🙂

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Thousands more now know, more than before, about the non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel movement.

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The Woolworths Brand Disaster concerns all WW shareholders

Brands and share value are, to a large extent, based on sentiment and perceptions.

In this case, whether the issue is about a few pretzels and pomegranates as some argue, or about people who are killed, robbed, tortured and oppressed as others argue, is not the only issue. The Woolworths arrogance is now pushing the #BoycottWoolworths campaign to the main stream media – a disaster for the Woolworths brand.

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Listen here what happened at the Woolworths Annual General Meeting:

Interview on SABC newsroom on #BoycottWoolworths

Woolworths declined SABC’s invitation to participate in this and in other media discussions.

It is alarming that Woolworths refused to meet with BDS before a court ordered them to do so. Moreover, their arrogant refusal to talk about their ethical stance at the AGM for shareholders express their disregard of consumer and shareholder needs.

indexSimon Susman, Chair of the WHL Board

As shareholders we thought the Woolworths campaign is about a just freedom for Palestinians. But now it seems as if the matter is also about corporate governance!

All shareholders, those who fight for pretzels and pomegranates from Israel as well as those fighting for Palestinian rights should expect Woolworths to resolve the matter with BDS and to uphold the kind of ethos they say they stand for.

 

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Woolworths Chair lies to shareholders in Annual General Meeting

“Our eggs are best enjoyed on a slice of ethics” says Woolworths.

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When shareholders challenged the Woolworths Board on their ethics in respect of Israeli trade relations, the board members avoided clear answers. When I asked Simon Susman, Non-executive Director and Chairman to explain the Woolworths difference between ethics and the law, he refused to comment. Instead Tom Boardman, another director, used a lot of words without answering the question.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture is from the Woolworths Holdings Limited/ 2014 Integrated Report prepared for their annual general meeting with shareholders.

When we asked Chris Nissen, Chairman of the Social and Ethics Committee to explain the Woolworths ethics, he said an external company screened their service providers and he refused any further comment. We posed questions to Zarina Bassa and Sam Ngumeni from the risk and compliance committee, they too refused to answer.

Non-executive Director and Chairman Simon Susman acknowledged that the Woolworths brand is in question. At the start of the meeting, when he announced the agenda, he mentioned that they received a statement on the boycott from a shareholder. From that point onwards, the concern with trade relations with Israeli companies dominated the meeting. Lots of pertinent questions were asked and not answered. When shareholders insisted that the points should at least be minuted the Chair first consulted with his legal team to hear if it is in order to do so. They confirmed that it is in order. We hope the points were taken down.

Shortly before the Chair stopped the discussion I asked him how Woolworths engages with any shareholder statements they received. He assured me that there is a process in place and that they have already engaged with all those who sent statements. Mr Susman was not telling the truth when he said this. As you will see from the e-mails below, despite several requests to do so, no one has engaged with me on the statement I sent a week before the Annual General Meeting on 26 November 2014:

From: (name of official from my stock broker’s office)
Sent: 19 November 2014 02:34 PM
To: evelynbaiden-amissah@woolworths.co.za
Cc: Momberg, Marthie
Subject: Woolworths AGM

Dear Evelyn

As per our telecom, please see our client’s letter attached. I have also attached the client’s email with her concerns.

Could you please revert to Mrs Momberg, she is copied in this email.

Kind Regards

(name of official from my stock broker’s office)

 

From: Momberg, Marthie Sent: 21 November 2014 02:10 PM
To: (name of official from my stock broker’s office); evelynbaiden-amissah@woolworths.co.za
Cc: (name of stock broker)
Subject: RE: Woolworths AGM

Dear (name of official from my stockbroker’s office),

It is now four days since I asked:
1. Information on how the boycott against WW impact on their sales.
2. What the correct procedure is to raise an issue at the AGM.
You also forwarded them my statement as a shareholder.

Thank you for your help, but unfortunately I have not yet had any kind of response from Woolworths. Can you please follow up with them?

With kind regards,

MM

 

From: (name of official from my stock broker’s office)
Sent: Monday, 24 November 2014 09:21
To: Evelyn Baiden – Amissah
Cc:
Subject: RE: Woolworths AGM

Dear Evelyn

I tried calling and left a message.

Can you please urgently advise with regard to Mrs Momberg’s concern’s, please see an article that was placed in the newspaper.

Kind Regards

(name of official from my stockbroker’s office)

 

From: Evelyn Baiden – Amissah [mailto:EvelynBaiden-Amissah@woolworths.co.za]
Sent: 24 November 2014 05:13 PM
To: (name of official from my stockbroker’s office)
Cc:
Subject: RE: Woolworths AGM

Dear (name of official in my stockbroker’s office)

I confirm that I have received your email below as well as the voicemail you left in this regard.
I have forwarded the email on to the relevant people within our Company Secretarial department who will determine the appropriate action in line with protocols of engagement with shareholders.
The AGM will be held on Wednesday, 26 November from 10:00 – 12:00 at Woolworths House in Cape Town.

Kind regards

Evelyn

I don’t buy my eggs at Woolworths, and I don’t swallow their ethics.

Click here for a short YouTube clip on what happened outside the Woolworths headquarters while the shareholder meeting was underway. Note the excellent comment by Dr Clint le Bruyns.

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Photos of pomegranates with double labels in Woolworths: #BoycottWoolworths

Are they from Israel or from South Africa? What is Woolworths’ rationale for labelling the same pomegranates as produce from both countries?

The first photo shows the display with two labels – one at the top of the box, and one at the bottom:

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This next photo is of the same box. Here you can see the label at the bottom saying that the pomegranates are South African produce:

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Yet the label at the top of the box (still the same one with the same fruit) shows that the pomegranates are from Israel:

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A concerned citizen took these photos in Sandton City’s Woolworths. It is a large store situated in an affluent suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa’s financial capital.

What are we to make of this? Is it yet another example of how we cannot trust Woolworths to tell (and live) the truth?

The thing is, it is not the only example of false or incorrect labelling by Woolworths of their produce sourced from Israel. BDS South Africa issued a press statement on 29 October 2015 in which they say that South Africa’s National Consumer Commission (NCC) has launched an investigation into Woolworths over allegations of false Israeli labelling.

If anyone is aware of other examples related to Woolworths’ labelling you are welcome to share the full details with the BDS office at alerts@bdssouthafrica.com.

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Woolworths taking its clients to court: As a WW shareholder, here’s my perspective on #BoycottWoolworths

“And you do all this for a few pretzels and pomegranates?” the journalist from The Times asked me. I do it for all those whose houses are demolished, I do it for the workmen who need to queue since 2:00 at a checkpoint, I do it for Gaza, I do it for the children who are harrassed on their way to school, I do it for the farmers whose olive trees are destroyed or whose land is confiscated, I do it because I believe in human dignity for all. I do it for justice and freedom.

The journalist wanted to know why, as a shareholder in Woolworths, I am so concerned about the national boycott of Woolworths. Click here for a link to the audio interview with The Times.

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I am indeed very concerned – as a consumer, as a concerned citizen and as a shareholder. Corporate identity, or a brand, is not about window dressing or  fancy advertising. It is about embodying the values of a company on every single level. These values should inspire staff relations and also those with clients, shareholders and all other stakeholders. The values must be visible in every detail – in products, in the service, in the advertising…..down to the state of the restrooms. Yet Woolworths chooses to take its clients (of which some are shareholders) to court!

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My statement was one of a number by concerned shareholders that was read out at a media conference in Johannesburg on 18 November 2014. I also submit it through my stockbroker to Woolworths. Thus far I have had no reply from Woolworths:

Shareholder statement by Marthie Momberg for the Woolworths Annual General Meeting on 26.11.14:

As an investor in Woolworths I am compelled to reveal my concern about the image and the ethics of the company in which I invested a considerable amount of my savings.

The Woolworths brand is increasingly questioned. Woolworths imports products such as pretzels, couscous, matzos, coriander and fruit from Israel. The real issue is not the number of Israeli products on the shelves of Woolworths, but rather the existence of contracts between Woolworths and Israeli businesses. Israel is well known for its continued, systemic violations of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories (Gaza, the West Bank and East-Jerusalem). Peaceful, economic resistance against Israel and her partners is by no means a protest against Jews, but against a systemic regime of oppression. The boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS) is part of an international strategy similar to the one which helped to end South African apartheid. Major businesses and churches, across the globe have already implemented BDS. They did so not because they are politically driven, but for ethical reasons.

Woolworths say they are an ethical company. Woolworths’ products are of outstanding quality and are loved by South Africans. It is the result of dedication, courage and a commitment to quality. And yet, with regard to their relation with Israel Woolworths argues that they adhere to the law and need not do anything more. Ethical behaviour demands moral leadership. Laws are prerequisites that apply to everyone. It codifies practices, ideals, norms and moral values as the minimum that is required in a society, whilst ethics starts where the law ends. What would the quality of Woolworths’ products be if their business strategy simply adheres to the law and ignores going the extra mile? As shareholder I expect a consistent, reliable integrity from Woolworths. It implies responsible ethics in line with the growing international appeal for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel. South African Karstens Farms has already demonstrated ethical leadership by cutting its ties with Israeli exporter Hadiklaim. Woolworths can be the first South African retail company to take this step.

As a person who values the human dignity of all I, together with South Africans from all walks of life, support ‘the non-violent boycott against Woolworths. With our history of apartheid South Africans have a special role to play in saying no to Israel’s decades long institusionalised violations of the Palestinians. It is now our turn to express our moral support with the oppressed. As shareholder I expect Woolworths to practice what they preach and to restore trust in the business. The integrity – and the viability – of a brand has to do with values that are embodied.

As shareholders we are concerned about Woolworths’ decision to take BDS South Africa to court whilst declining a face-to-face meeting with BDS South Africa and other human rights groups.

Corporates are arguably one of society’s most potent change agents for a sustainable world and a safer, cleaner, healthier and thriving society. Woolworths is a signatory to the U.N Global Compact (UNGC), the world’s largest corporate citizenship and sustainability initiative. The UNGC is underpinned by principles derived from international instruments including the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UNGC asks companies to embrace, support and enact, within their sphere of influence, a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labour standards, the environment and anti-corruption. On human rights it says: “Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.” Woolworths has developed enormous goodwill for the company with the company’s brand and reputation being wisely crafted on good citizenship and squeaky clean values. It is for precisely these reasons that Woolworths should pay attention to BDS. Why doesn’t it?

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Alan Horwitz, a Jewish human rights activist representing a group of Jewish Woolworths shareholders said:

I represent a group of Jewish shareholders in Woolworths and I think I must explain why as Jewish South Africans we have taken a stand to support the #BoycottWoolworths campaign. Israel, as we are well aware wrongly claims to act and speak on behalf of Jewish people all over the globe and Israeli actions over the last decade have featured violations not just of international law but also of Jewish ethical structures. We say this because Jews can only flourish, like any other people, in open societies that respect human rights at an individual and at a national level.

We find though, that Israel has systematically violated the rights of not just of Palestinians but of other minorities within the borders of Israel. We have seen over the last few months an escalation of quite fascistic behavior by the Israeli government and the right wing, which forms part of that government. The Israeli provocations in Jerusalem are leading to intense conflict and of course the illegal expansion by Israel of the Jewish settlements around Jerusalem are making the possibility of a negotiated and just settlement with Palestinians almost impossible. We have to say that boycott as a nonviolent response to state oppression is a completely valid and ethical response, and that is why we support this action and the #BoycottWoolworths campaign. Woolworths and other big South African corporations in the retail sector are public companies that have a responsibility in terms of our anti apartheid stance. Many Jewish activists were prominent in the anti apartheid struggle, we must continue to show the world that as Jews we will not tolerate Israel acting in our name in a a fashion which is fascist. We wholeheartedly support this boycott campaign. The Israel-Palestine conflict is something which degenerates daily, quite literally and really is time that we as South Africans take a very firm stand. Finally in conclusion, we find that Woolworths claims to be a very ethical company, that it claims to be at the forefront of good corporate practice and that is why perhaps it makes sense for Woolworths to be the front runner in this action of terminating relations with Israel.” For comment from Mr Horwitz contact 0825128188

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The #BoycottWoolworths campaign receives wide spread attention and support from various South African Government Ministers, artists, well known personalities and anti-apartheid stalwarts. To date, the management of Woolworths has refused to meet so that this issue can be resolved.

Last year Woolworths was ranked first in the RepTrak Reputation Index survey of South African companies in 2014. It was also rated in the top three of the Sunday Times Top 100 companies for 2013 and was included in the JSE Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) index for 2013/14.

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The pig’s head debacle: A disgrace to Palestinians, to Jews, to South Africans and to all others

Placing pigs’ heads on top of the meat others want to buy serves neither the Palestinian cause nor the boycott campaign against Woolworths. It disrespects all Jews, all Muslims, all animals, and all who advocate for freedom and dignity.

pig's head

Tactics of intimidation and disrespect belongs to an ideology of oppression. It is disguised violence. To argue that the end goal justifies the means is part of an outdated, dualistic, hierarchical framework which ignores relationships. Isn’t this the very thing that we try to move away from? Does it not go against everything the broader South African solidarity movement stand for? Can such tactics ever win people over to hear the cries of the Palestinians?

mondoweiss, artist unknown

Calling the incident “completely offensive”, Sumayya Omar, of BDS South Africa, said the group “condemned” the action. “We are completely distancing ourselves from the incident. BDS is not involved or implicated at all,” she said. Likewise, South Africa’s National Coalition for Palestine made it clear that the incident is unacceptable.

The following letter in the Cape Town newspaper, Argus (6 November 2014), written by a Jewish colleague in the local Palestine solidarity movement, is crisp and clear:

Dear Editor of Argus,

The action at Woolworths last Thursday as well as today’s press release by COSAS that it has placed a further three pig’s heads in Woolworths stores and is so planning to place ten more, is unacceptable both for reasons of principle and strategy.

In principle it is conflating ‘ the Jewish religion’ with ‘the political state of Israel’. This is through linking a pig’s head to Jewish religious dietary laws that regard pork as impure and there are injunctions not to eat it. Their intention is anti-Jewish, and not simply anti-Israel. The action also demeans sentient life other than human, in this case about 14 pigs have been killed and beheaded to make a political point.

The action has brought pork into a store which also caters for Muslim consumers, whose dietary laws also forbid them to consume pork; this is an affront to them, and they are the main target of consumers whom this campaign is appealing to boycott Woolworths. Today’s press release confirms that it is COSAS’ explicit intention to deeply affront Jewish, Muslim and other consumers in order to shock them into realising the IDF’s carnage in Gaza (they refer specifically to the killing of schoolchildren through targeting artillery, tank and air bombardment on schools etc.), rather than engaging consumers with information about the attack on Gaza as well as the broader issue of Israel’s historical and ongoing violation of Palestinians’ human rights (including the right to self-determination) in order to raise their awareness and convince them to boycott Woolworths over the longer term. I think that the placing of the Pigs’ heads is already causing a backlash from the targeted consumers themselves.

This is a tactic of intimidating consumers into boycotting, for which there was a history in the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1980s where COSAS and other youth formations sometimes enforced consumer boycotts by punishing consumers who dared to break them – youths guarded the entrances to townships and searched people’s bags and containers as they came home, forcing those who had bought at forbidden shops to consume all that then and there; often this entailed forcing them to drink raw cooking oil, etc. They were able to do this because they had made the townships ungovernable. This is not the situation today where the ideas that legitimise or delegitimise opposing actions, is the terrain where this struggle is largely being fought outside of Israel/Palestine. In any event this is not a democratic but an authoritarian politics and I reject it both for its taunting of Jews and Muslims as well as for its undermining the growth of a movement that has legitimacy and mass support across the religious, ethnic/race and class spectrum.

COSAS thinks that the end justifies the means, but equally there is a greater risk that these means will start corrupting a noble end.

Yours truly,

Dr Paul Hendler
Stellenbosch

I am a Jewish South African against the demonisation of the Palestinian People and for a rational discussion of their circumstances.

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The Congress of South African Students (COSAS) has since expressed their disgust and distanced themselves from the incident. They said that only one person, Siphakamise Ngxowa, was involved and that he is suspended from the organisation. Ngxowa’s actions lacked the backing of COSAS even though he pretended otherwise.

COSAS STATEMENT ON WOOLWORTHS PIG HEAD INCIDENT
Official Statement of the Congress of South African Students (COSAS) on the Lamentable Woolworths “Pig Head” Incident:

The Congress of South African Students would first like to continue pledging its solidarity with the people of Palestine. COSAS has nationally supported the advocating for freeing people of Palestine from apartheid Israel, we have done that through releasing press statements, doing interviews, attending the campaigns, marches and
addressing various events on the particular matter.

The Congress of South African Students has committed itself in forming part of this struggle without any hesitation because it is a just course. Democracy, peace and stability are deserved by any living human being; this is why we continue to pledge our consistent solidarity with the people of Palestine.

With the above being said as an organization we must go on to mention that it comes as a disappointment to us that establishments such as Woolworths continue to import goods from Israel, whilst there is no peace in that country and people of Palestine including children are brutally killed and murdered every day.

As an organization we indeed believe that Woolworths should continue to be lobbied until they join the rest of the country in being in solidarity with the people of Palestine. As an organization we do understand the importance of boycotts and sanctions as they also assisted our very own country when it fought against apartheid governance.
We are however of the view that when we do not agree with certain methods being used to push the struggle of the Palestinians forward, we are not going to be censored to raise it in fear of being labelled sellouts. When as an organization we resolved on participating in this campaign we never requested advice from anyone therefore even
now we will not seek approval of anyone to continue to participate in it and we again will not be threatened not to critique where we see fit to do so. South Africa remains a country in itself, which has its own beliefs and values it also has a constitution which guides it.

The Congress of South African Students is again also an organization which has its own constitution which guides it will never compromise on. As we continue to push forward this struggle we can never lose identity of who we are and what our primary principles are.

The Congress of South African Students joins the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) SA and the African National Congress in condemning the placing of the pig heads in the meat section of Woolworths stores around the Western Cape Province as a method to lobby Woolworths to stop trading with Israel. This particular method is
surrounded by a number of controversies when it comes to religion.

As the Congress of South African Students we view this method as seeking to provoke certain religions in order to push the campaign forward which we believe weakens and further mobilizes against the boycott as some religions may find this offensive and further provocative. We find this method ill-advised and not well thought as it has now
brought a certain level of instability in our own country religiously, which is not something that we should allow to happen. We cannot compromise peace and religious rights of our own people in order to push forward this struggle.

As an organization we would like to place it on record that it was not COSAS which led this campaign. There is no structure of the organization which set and resolved on this Pig Head campaign, we do however acknowledge that an individual by the name of Siphakamise Ngxowa was part of that action.

Siphakamise Ngxowa is currently suspended from the organization, in a suspension which was in effect before the Woolworths incident happened, which gives the organization all rights to distance itself from the mishap and clear itself from participating in it, as Siphakamise Ngxowa participated on the campaign in his own personal capacity.

It is further important we point out that no other member of COSAS in good standing was found in this debacle. The organization has noted that the particular individual continues to release statements and address the media on behalf of the organization posing as the chairperson of COSAS Western Cape, despite being suspended from the organization. We view this act as unprincipled, misleading and further bringing the organization in disrepute, the act by the individual will further be engaged and added when the appropriate structures of the organization considers his suspension further.

Statement issued by COSAS President General Collen Malatji, November 4 2014

South Africans on their return from the oPt: “We owe it to ourselves to act”

“We owe it to ourselves to act against Israel’s occupation and extensive abuses

they said. A civil society delegation of eleven South Africans visited Israel and the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem between 21 – 29 October 2014.

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Media release:

The delegation included former anti-apartheid activists Barney Pityana, Vusi Pikoli and Firoz Cachalia; civil society leaders Vuyiseka Dubula, Brad Brockman and Adila Hassim; politician Mbali Ntuli; author and political analyst Christi van der Westhuizen; and activists Adaiah Lilenstein, Bruce Baigrie and Keren Ben-Zeev.

We met Israeli and Palestinian civil society organisations, activists, politicians and local people to discuss the different dimensions of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Regrettably we were unable to enter Gaza due to the time constraints caused by the stringent permit conditions.

Based on our visits to Tel Aviv, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, our observations are the following:

Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed on a two-state solution in the Oslo Accords of 1993, in which a five year process would have culminated in an independent Palestinian state encompassing the West Bank and Gaza. The visit made it clear to the delegation that Israel’s military occupation and expanding settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem is eroding the viability of the two-state solution.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInstead of finding the Palestinian Authority in charge of the West Bank, the delegation realized the Israeli government and the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) are in control of military and civilian affairs of the Palestinian population. Soldiers are seen everywhere. The West Bank is dotted with a network of military checkpoints, surveillance cameras, watch towers, segregated roads and a very high concrete wall that cuts across the territory annexing parts of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem (part of the Palestinian territory according to international law), to Israel. Palestinians’ movement is restricted through a permit system and IDs that relegate them to residents, as opposed to citizens. We witnessed Palestinians being herded through checkpoints in a system that is no better than cattle pens.

Palestinian civilians are under military law, which is discretionary and arbitrary and they rely on the institutions of the Israeli occupation for most services, as the Palestinian Authority has limited powers. Israeli military courts are run by soldiers and traffic offences are tried by military courts, which have no system of due process and do not comply with the rule of law. People resisting the occupation are also tried in the military courts. They are detained in terms of military codes and face random decisions and postponing of their cases or procedures such as “administrative detention”, which potentially leaves them imprisoned for indefinite periods without access to proper legal representation. Interrogation and torture are routinely used. Applications for permits to leave the West Bank for work and other purposes have to be made to the military administration. In contrast, Israeli settlers in the West Bank are under civilian law and enjoy all basic rights like their fellow Israeli citizens. The Israeli cabinet is currently considering a bill to restrict the independence of the court.

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In most of the areas that the delegation visited – East Jerusalem, Jordan Valley, Hebron and villages outside of Ramallah – we saw how settlements work on the ground. The number of settlers in the West Bank including East Jerusalem currently stands at over 515 000. The Jordan Valley has huge agricultural settlements in a water-scarce area. We were shocked to find out that Israeli settlers are allocated on average 6 times the amount of water than Palestinians whose usage is limited to 23 litres per day in some areas . Palestinians also on average pay three times the price for their water. Palestinians cannot build their homes, improve their access to water or engage in agricultural activities freely. In East Jerusalem and Hebron we saw how religious zealots physically displaced Palestinians with the support of the military. Many settlements include military bases. Soldiers and settlers are both armed, leaving Palestinians unprotected in the eye of violent acts of settlers.

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Between 2004 and 2014, 517 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem have been demolished, leaving 2028 people homeless, over half of whom were minors. During the delegation’s visit, the Israeli government announced the construction of another 1000 settler homes in East Jerusalem, the internationally recognised future capital of the Palestinian state. The delegation met with families physically displaced by Israelis who have invaded their homes, while soldiers were patrolling the area.

It has become clear to us through our visit that the settlement process and the mass dispossession and displacement of Palestinians are directly opposed to the goal of a two-state solution. It seems to be aimed either at the forcible transfer of the Palestinian population, which amounts to continuing ethnic cleansing or at the very least, the containment of Palestinians in a system of fragmented cantons. Violent suppression of demonstrations against dispossession and displacement is backed up by draconian military law.

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Palestinians are criminalised even when resisting the occupation without force and a staggering one-fifth of the population of the West Bank has been incarcerated since 1967. There are currently 6200 political prisoners.

The delegation’s visit to the Ofer military court revealed that these courts operate on the presumption of guilt in a hopelessly unjust administrative process controlled by soldiers. This is confirmed by the conviction rate of 99.7% .

Particularly abominable is the Israeli Defence Forces’ targeting of Palestinian children. An estimated 2 500 Palestinian children have been arrested between 2010 to mid-2014 . Approximately 400 children were between the ages of 12 and 15 years but some were as young as 5. Children are subject to torture and interrogation. Intimidation includes threats of sexual violence. While the delegation was in Hebron, an 11-year-old child was arrested by the military on his way to school and held without his parents or any legal representation for hours. We heard many accounts and were shown footage of these abuses.

It became clear to the delegation that Israel and the West Bank form one territory that is fragmented through a system of regulation and physical control through which resources such as fertile lands, water and state revenues are extracted for the benefit of Israeli citizens at the expense of Palestinians. These steps deepen the poverty and economic marginalisation of Palestinians. In Hebron we even saw how shops and market places are shut down in service of the grand design of the Israeli security state.

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Across class and geography, the Palestinians we met were clear they would be willing to live peacefully side by side with Jews, either in two states, a bi-national state or one state. As a nation which struggled and continues to struggle for justice, peace and human rights we have a particular responsibility to speak out on injustice where it is evident. As such, we call on South Africans, Israeli citizens and the global community to support the transition to a just and peaceful resolution that recognises Palestinians’ claims to human rights.

The delegation calls for:

  • An immediate end to the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, which remains under illegal blockade, and the removal of all settlements.

  • The Israeli government as well as Palestinian ruling factions to uphold the rule of law and to respect and protect Palestinians’ human rights under international law. All political prisoners must be released.

  • Support for the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel until international law is observed. Israeli society continues to largely be complicit in the maintenance of the Occupation and Israeli politics remains dominated by the right and ultra-right parties. Thus the international community must make the occupation economically, politically and morally costly for Israel until it is dismantled.

  • The South African government to consistently apply all relevant legislation, including the Foreign Military Assistance Act.After we have seen the reality on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories, we hereby express our solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination.

 

During the eight days the delegates met and interacted with both Israeli and Palestinian civil society members and with political representatives in Israel and Palestine. Among other activities, the group visited the Jordan Valley to understand the politics of water and its impact on Palestinian farmers; they observed military court proceedings in the West Bank and participatee in a workshop in Ramallah to share South Africa’s experience of advancing human rights and social justice. The delegation will host report back events upon its return.

The fact-finding mission was facilitated by Open Shuhada Street South Africa and the Heinrich Boell Foundation. This statement represents the delgation’s personal views and not necessarily the official positions of any organisations.

Adaiah Lilenstein
Adila Hassim – Section 27
Prof. Barney Pityana
Brad Brockman – Equal Education
Bruce Baigrie – Open Shuhada Street
Dr. Christi van der Westhuizen – Author and political analyst
Prof. Firoz Cachalia – Wits School of Law
Keren Ben-Zeev
Vusi Pikoli
Vuyiseka Dubula – Treatment Action Campaign & Sonke Gender Justice

Media liaison: Layla Al-Zubaidi, 082 885 7878 or layla.al-zubaidi@za.boell.org

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My brief oor Woolworths aan Die Burger wat nié geplaas is nie

Geagte Redakteur,

U berig ”Woolies wil nie sê wat die Moslem-boikot aan sy verkope doen” (DB, 01.10) noem nie dat ook Christene, nie-Sionistiese Jode en talle andere die vreedsame, wettige boikot teen Woolworths ondersteun nie. Dis deel van ‘n internasionale strategie soortgelyk aan dié een wat Suid-Afrikaanse apartheid help beëindig het.

Woolworths het handelsbande met Israel wat welbekend is vir menseregteskendings in die besette Palestynse gebied (Gaza, die Wes-Oewer en Oos-Jerusalem). Weerstand teen Israel behels nie ‘n protes teen Jode nie, maar teen ‘n beleid van grootskaalse menseregtevergrype.

Die veldtog van boikot, disinvestering en sanksies (BDS) teen Israel is die keuse van die meerderheid Palestynse burgerlikes (www.bdsmovement.net). So het die Gates Stigting onlangs al hul aandele in die G4S sekuriteitsmaatskappy verkoop, en plaaslik het Karstens Plase hul bande met die Israeliese uitvoerder Hadiklaim verbreek.

Woolworths sê hulle is ‘n etiese maatskappy. Tog voer hulle produkte soos pretsels, koeskoes, matzos, koljander en vrugte in van Israel. Woolworths sê hulle kom die wet na en hoef nie meer te doen nie. Wetgewing is egter net die basis van ‘n gemeenskap se moraliteit. Etiek begin waar die reg stop. As Woolworths regtig eties verantwoordbaar is, sal hulle gehoor gee aan die internasionale oproep om ekonomiese isolasie van Israel.

As Suid-Afrikaners hul identiteit as ‘n baken van hoop wil laat herleef, moet al die lae van ons samelewing met morele integriteit handel. Om handelsbande met Israel te handhaaf is net so onverantwoordelik soos om die Dalai Lama die land te weier.

Vriendelike groete,
Marthie Momberg

3 Oktober 2014