The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel took another step into open antisemitism today when student activists in South Africa placed the severed head of a pig in the kosher meat section of a Woolworths store in Cape Town. The shocking gesture was aimed, the perpetrators said, at preventing “people who will not eat pork to pretend that they are eating clean meat, when it is sold by hands dripping with the blood of Palestinian children.”
Jewish leaders were quick to condemn the act, organized by the Congress of South African Students (COSAS,) a body affiliated with the ruling African National Congress (ANC.) “Disregarding all standards of basic decency, the Congress of South African Students today chose to send an ugly message to the Jewish community of South Africa. This morning, as a protest against Woolworths for stocking Israeli products, COSAS members in Cape Town deposited a pig’s head in the kosher meat section of a Woolworths food store,” said the South African Jewish Board of Deputies. “The SAJBD regards this incident as a hate crime and is investigating its options regarding taking the matter further.”
A spokesman for Woolworths claimed after the incident that there “were no kosher food products on the affected shelf” at the retailers’ Fort Road store in the Sea Point district. “Placing a pig’s head in our store is unacceptable and offensive to our employees and customers, including Jewish and Muslim employees and customers,” Paula Disberry, Woolworths group director of retail operations said in a statement. “We are investigating this incident and we will consider our options to prevent such distasteful protests in our stores.”
A statement issued by Siphakamise Ngxowa, COSAS Western Cape provincial chairperson – who was photographed displaying the pigs head inside the store – read as follows:
As the Congress of South African students in the W.C. we note with disgust the injustices of killing innocent children in Palestine, firstly as COSAS we believe in a free and fair society in which people live together with equal opportunities and are enjoying human rights. Israel is a racist apartheid state, COSAS supports the calls for Boycott Divest and Sanctioning Israel. Killing children, even at schools is not acceptable.
We are not being bombastic when we say will bring the supporters of Israel pigs – we are being revolutionary.
It is unacceptable that people, especially those who claim to believe in God to buy products from supporters of Israel. We will not allow people who will not eat pork, to pretend that they are eating clean meat, when it is sold by hands dripping with the blood of Palestinian children. Woolworths is NOT Kosher. We cannot allow food like this to be called halaal or Kosher. It is dirty food – the dirtiest food. We have placed the pigs head in Woolworths to show these people of God that Woolworths is Haraam and it is not Kosher.
Woolworths only buys 0.1% of food from Israel, if they do not support apartheid then why do they not stop buying this?
Woolworths must expect activists from COSAS to bring them the pigs. Woolworths has betrayed school children and is a very dirty apartheid supporting store.
#BoycottWoolworths and their dirty food.
BDS South Africa, the campaign which organizes the BDS-related activities of various pro-Palestinian groups, including the South African version of “Israel Apartheid Week,” claimed that it did not support the COSAS action. However, the group wasted no time in rationalizing the act, declaring on its website, “we also recognize that this radical action was probably done with the good intention of helping the people of Palestine and as an expression of the increasing frustration against Woolworths by South African young people… Protests are increasing against Woolworths as the company tries to ignore the calls to end its relations with Apartheid Israel.”
The Algemeiner attempted to ask Kwara Kekana, spokeswoman for BDS South Africa, whether a physical attack upon a synagogue or a Jewish individual would also be regarded as reflecting “the good intention of helping the people of Palestine.” Reached by phone three times, Ms. Kekana claimed that she was unable to hear the question because of a bad connection. A subsequent email to her was unanswered by press time.
BDS activists on social media network Twitter positively rejoiced at the COSAS action. “COSAS has basically said that Woolies is not Kosher, thus a pigs head is suitable for its Kosher section,” crowed one of dozens of similar tweets.
Rabbi Osher Deren, Chairman of the Rabbinical Association of the Western Cape, told The Algemeiner that “to target the heart of the Jewish community in such a beguiling manner speaks volumes about the people behind this terrible act and nothing to the cause of peace which they purport to represent.”
Rabbi Dovid Wineberg, leader of Cape Town’s Green and Sea Point Hebrew Congregation, the largest in South Africa, condemned the incident but stressed its isolated nature.
“People are very angered by the incident. It’s an appalling act,” Wineberg told The Algemeiner. “However, this is generally seen as an exceptional incident. The South African population, which includes millions of members in ‘African Zionist Churches,’ are largely supportive of our Jewish community and Israel. ”
The top Chabad Rabbi in Cape Town, Mendel Popack, told The Algemeiner that “the Jewish community of Cape Town is appalled by the actions of COSAS in placing a pigs head in Woolworths. We stand behind the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and we are confident that they will seek justice over any hate speech and actions.”
UPDATE 1: Kware Kekana of BDS South Africa eventually emailed The Algemeiner to say, “The pig was placed in both the halal and kosher section of the store, BDS is a non-violent movement and strongly condemns all forms of racism including Zionism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. I refer you again to our press release.” Our original question – “Would you use the phrase ‘good intention’ about a physical attack on a Jewish individual or institution if the Palestinian cause is cited as the reason for such an attack?” – was unanswered.
UPDATE 2: The Israeli Embassy in South Africa tweeted: “We condemn in the strongest possible way the vile antisemitic act by COSAS of placing pigs heads in the kosher section of @WOOLWORTHS_SA”