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BDS noisy at Woolies AGM – where were Zionists?




Anti-Israel lobbyists representing a range of organisations and who had each bought a single share in the South African and Australian retail giant Woolworths to gain access to the company’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Monday, did their best to disrupt the proceedings.

The activist groups, all affiliated to the National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P) which supports the #BoycottWoolworths campaign, were mostly from the SA arm of the US-based NGO Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (Israel) movement, (BDS-SA) arrived with a complex list of 35 questions, were lauded by the Media Review Network (MRN) which came out on Tuesday in strong support of BDS-SA. (Read the 35 QUESTIONS on Fin24)

A spokesman for Woolworths told Jewish Report on Wednesday afternoon that “all statutory requirements were met at the WHL (Woolworths Holdings Ltd) AGM on Monday, November 30.”

Woolworths’ directors were bombarded with questions all aimed at getting them to abort trade ties with Israel. The activists also had the backing of some long-standing Woolworths Holding Limited shareholders who had given them their proxies prior to the meeting with a mandate to support the campaign.

Woolies AGM demo 2

RIGHT: BDS had expected huge support outside the Woolworths head office and had applied for permission for a demonstration of 500 people. On the day, however, there were only two. “Even one protester at Woolworths AGM is enough, says BDS-SA,” read a Fin24 headline the following day, with this pic by Dane McDonald showing the lonesome pair


There was also a noticeably decreased interest by the media in the meeting relative to last year’s AGM (CLICK TO READ: Protesters at AGM: Much hot air, little to show which includes links to the backstory in the run-up to the 2014 AGM). Only four reporters attended – three of whom left early in the proceedings. 

Prominent Cape Town attorney Aubrey Katzef, himself a Woolworths shareholder, told Jewish Report he was really upset with both the professional Jewish organisations and private Jewish shareholders. “I attended the Woolworths Group’s AGM. I certainly knew what to expect as I had been there last year and watched the BDS supporters attempt to derail the meeting,” Katzef. In the venue there was a large contingent of BDS supporters many who proudly announced that they had gained entry by buying one share because that all you need to attend a shareholders meeting.

‘Independent’s report patently untrue’

“The IOL group reported that the chairman, Simon Susman, refused the group time for questions – but this is patently untrue,” said Katzef.

Susman had allowed BDS “a large amount of leeway to ask questions and to take point of order,” he said. While the BDS contingent has sought to harass Susman, says Katzef, the chairman had “kept cool and retained control of the meeting. He gave them so much leeway and time that the meeting ran very late.”

On the other hand, says Katzef, BDS had “very little support from shareholders and their anti-Israel vote garnered just a few per cent of the votes cast.”

Anti-Israel activist Terry Crawford Brown had “displayed his usual arrogance and reeled off lots of incorrect facts about Israel,” says Katzef, adding that all of the Woolworths directors had shown great “restraint in the face of what were defamatory and incorrect allegations about the company’s trade with Israel.”

What had particularly got Katzef’s goat was that, besides himself, there was apparently only one other Zionist there. “Both of us were there last year. With Woolworths refusing to bow to the BDS demands you would think that the Zionist organisations would give the directors some support and attend the meeting. One must wonder whether the organised community is really serious in tackling BDS as they claim to be doing,” said Katzef.

“The only smart thing BDS did,” he added, was to bring over a young Palestinian woman who told the meeting how bad it was growing up in the territories.

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