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September 29, 2014 4:24 pm

South African BDS Activists Storm Woolworths Store in Johannesburg

avatar by Ben Cohen

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A BDS protest. Photo: Isi Leibler.

Scuffles broke out at a Woolworths store in the South African city of Johannesburg on Saturday, after Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activists staged a protest over the stocking of Israeli goods.

Activists brandishing pro-Palestinian banners rushed into the store chanting “Free Palestine, boycott Woolworths.” After security guards attempted to move the protestors, many of whom were dancing and leaping around, out of the store, a brief confrontation ensued. The store closed its doors temporarily as a result.

“Woolworths sources products to the value of 12 million Rands from Israeli companies in violation of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) consumer boycott,”  Muhammad Desai of BDS South Africa told a local news agency. In a statement responding to the protest, the retailer said that it “abhors violence and loss of life, particularly of children,” adding that “Less than 0.1 percent of our food is sourced from Israel.”

BDS activists warned that further protests would target other retailers stocking Israeli goods. “We are sending a clear message to the retail industry stores like Pick n Pay and Checkers that continue to stock Israeli products – we are coming for them,” said BDS South Africa spokesperson Kwara Kekana.

The BDS movement has been gaining support in South Africa, attracting considerable sympathy from the country’s influential Muslim organizations as well as within the ruling African National Congress. COSATU, the powerful labor union federation in South Africa, recently reaffirmed its support for the BDS movement. However, at the height of Israel’s military operation in Gaza in August, South African President Jacob Zuma stated that the Israeli Ambassador, Arthur Lenk, would remain in Pretoria, despite calls for his expulsion.

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