Woolies gets BDS anti-demo interdict

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“Woolworths takes a further step to protect customers & employees” against BDS protests, saying that “While we respect the right to protest peacefully and lawfully, the safety of our employees and customers come first.” Woolies announced today that it has “filed a court application to protect our employees and customers from the increasing unlawful protests inside our stores.” BDS were quick to put out a counter-statement which if full of hyperbole and vitriol. Read all about it, and the history of the Woolies, BDS and “Which Little Piggy” saga…
by ANT KATZ | Nov 14, 2014

Paula Disberry, Group Director: Retail Operations at Woolworths, said today: “The unlawful protest actions inside our stores have had a profound effect on many of our employees and customers. We respect the right of BDS to protest, but we are seeking to prevent protests inside our stores.

”Unfortunately their campaign has extended beyond raising awareness and includes actions such as intimidation of customers and employees, restricting access and preventing customers from shopping. Products have also been damaged. The recent statements by BDS to ramp up their protest action has given us no choice but to take legal steps. It is our responsibility to ensure that our customers and employees feel safe in our stores, free of disruption, abuse and intimidation.”

Woolies boycott SeptWoolworths said it had applied for the interdict because “the business has a right to trade unhindered; and we have a duty to protect employees and customers”. These rights, they point out, are underpinned in the SA Constitution.

“BDS violates the rights of our customers and employees when they protest unlawfully inside our stores,” says Woolworths.

The company says their interdict will protect their customers and staff against the unconstitutional behaviour in respect of:

  • The constitutional right “to assemble and protest” does not extend to protest action inside Woolworths stores; and
  • Protests have resulted in unconstitutional behaviour in that they have “extended beyond raising awareness and include harmful (non-peaceful) actions including restricting access and preventing customers from shopping, intimidation of customers and employees and damage to goods.”


Previously published on SAJR.CO.ZA


National Coalition 4 Palestine (NC4P) issued the following media statement this afternoon – it is being published verbatim as time does not allow for sub-editing:

South African retail and corporate giant Woolworths is taking the Palestine solidarity and human rights organisation BDS South Africa, to court over the Israel boycott. BDS South Africa is a member of the NC4P.

The use (or rather, abuse) by Woolworths of our courts to force BDS South Africa to end the #BoycottWoolworths campaign is a sign of the desperation of Woolworths and the growing impact of the #BoycottWoolworths campaign. Woolworths, in its court papers (page 14, paragraph 21) state that: “With the imminent onset of the festive season and the expected increased customer activity the Applicant [Woolworths] no longer has a choice. It now has to act in order to protect its business operations…the present court application is accordingly the Applicant’s [Woolworths] only option to restore the rule of law and to enable it to trade freely as it has done until the [#BoycottWoolworths] protests started.”

Firstly, by Woolworths' own admission the #BoycottWoolworths campaign is having an impact. Secondly, Woolworths claims, among other things, that they are concerned about a drop in business for the upcoming festive season - this it would seem is the intention of their court application. Thirdly, however, we disagree that the only option that Woolworths has was to go to court. The NC4P and BDS South Africa view this legal bullying and intimidation by a retail giant such as Woolworths of an activist organisation like BDS South Africa as unnecessary. This issue could easily be resolved if Woolworths had simply accepted the numerous requests by the NC4P and BDS South Africa to meet and resolve this issue. The boycott of Woolworths and the protest actions can easily come to an end if Woolworths were simply to terminate its relations with Apartheid Israel.

The NC4P and BDS South Africa maintain that all of our #BocyottWoolworths protest actions that have been carried out by us have always been non-violent. Woolworths in a press statement claim that the court order is due to #BoycottWoolworths protests going "beyond raising awareness and include harmful actions including ... intimidation of customers and employees and damage to goods”. The NC4P and BDS South Africa categorically deny ever intimidating customers, employees or damaging goods. These false accusations are the tactics used by Israel to intimidate peaceful protests against the Israeli regime. Woolworths is now mimicking Israel.

Furthermore, Woolworths is now clearly going out of its way to defend its trade with Apartheid Israel. This intended interdict is a clear attempt by Woolworths to protect Israeli agricultural companies that are the main beneficiaries and directly complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and theft of natural resources. Woolworths currently imports 12 million rands of mostly agricultural products from Israel. These products could easily be sourced locally or from countries other than Israel. In a statement issued on July 30  2014, Woolworths defended its sourcing of products from Israeli companies stating that it “has no political affiliations”. Buying from Israel, when many other markets are available (including local South African markets), is an endorsement of that country’s practices. Imagine buying from Apartheid South Africa during the 1980s and claiming to be "apolitical”.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu has famously said: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

We further note Woolworths’s bias towards Israel. A few months ago a group of pro-Israeli supporters from the pro-Israeli organisation Bnei Akiva draped themselves in Israeli flags and harassed customers. They forcefully handed out Israeli imported produce from Woolworths to shoppers inside Woolworths. Bnei Akiva itself posted pictures of this pro-Israeli protest inside Woolworths on its official Facebook page ( Woolworths it would seem has endorsed this action of the pro-Israeli organization Bnei Akiva.

Inspired by the successful boycott and isolation of Apartheid South Africa, in 2005 Palestinians called on the international community to support a non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and its companies until Israel complies with international law and respects human rights. Early in August 2014 (in line with the BDS call) a call for the complete boycott of Woolworths until it ends its Israeli trade links was made by the NC4P, BDS South Africa, COSATU, ANC Youth League, MJC and various others. The #BoycottWoolworths campaign (as it has been dubbed) has received 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.

Woolworths also claims in its press release that the #BoycottWoolworths campaign has "had a profound effect" on many customers. We do agree with this, the #BoycottWoolworths campaign has had the profound impact of educating people about Israel's Apartheid policies, making people aware of Woolworth’s trade links with Apartheid Israel and its arrogant refusal to give up those trade links in the face of growing consumer calls.


  1. 2 Radowitzsky 15 Nov
    The link provided by NC4P has been taken down (Is Bnei now ashamed for their actions?). Here is an alternative one

    A simple question: Does the right to shop trump the right to life? Or the right to dignity, water, food, education, health care etc etc? BDS is engaging in a proven non-violent action to try and create a situation in which Palestinians have the basic rights that all Woolworths shoppers enjoy. Once we all have basic rights, then luxury 'rights' like shopping at an upmarket store, won't be a problem. 
  2. 1 Benjy E. 16 Nov
    The whole BDS story is built on lies, myths and disinformation. The Palestinians have never offered a map of their so called State. Prior to 1967, Gaza was Egyptian, and the West Bank was Jordanian. Both Passed to Israel from those countries as a result of LAWFUL treaties. The whole Palestinian LIE is aimed at one thing, the destruction of the ENTIRE State of Israel, because it is the home of the Jews. The 1939 flag of Palestine was blue and white with a Star of David in its center....Te ARABS hijack the Palestine name when in 1967 the failed miserable in their attempt to annihilate Israel. 


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