Ordinary citizens hardest hit by anti-Israel boycotts
Boycotts are most detrimental to staff members, Cape Union Mart said at a meeting on 23 November with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) as it navigates ongoing pro-Palestinian boycotts of its products.
Cape Union Mart Chief Executive Philip Krawitz has long been a passionate advocate for job creation and its power to reduce poverty and crime in South Africa, saying that ultimately, it boosts foreign direct investment thereby growing the economy. “That’s where it starts in making this country great, and I believe there’s so much that we can do,” he told other business leaders at a recent national event.
Yet, amidst the boycott of its stores spurred by anti-Israel extremists, the company’s job creation and job retention efforts have come under significant threat. The meeting sought to limit such fallout, and clarify the facts surrounding the allegations against the Cape Union Mart Group and Krawitz linked to the conflict in the Middle East.
The group met Cosatu Western Cape Provincial Secretary Malvern de Bruyn; Sactwu Western Cape Provincial Secretary Deon Simons; and 13 Cape Union Mart Sactwu shop stewards, facilitated by Professor Brian Williams of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Roman Catholic Church. In a press release issued on 23 November, the Cape Union Mart Group revealed the information shared at the meeting.
“The Cape Union Mart Group has only contributed to humanitarian projects in South Africa,” it said. “The company hasn’t donated funds to any institutions outside of South Africa. The Cape Union Mart Group has never donated funds to Israel, the Israeli army, or any other army. Philip Krawitz, in his personal capacity, has also never donated funds to the Israeli army or any other army.
“Philip Krawitz is a philanthropist who supports purely humanitarian projects in South Africa and Israel, in his personal capacity. He has made contributions to poverty alleviation, peace, and reconciliation projects for several years, as is his constitutional right. The Cape Union Mart Group is committed to creating and protecting jobs within South Africa.”
Speaking to the SA Jewish Report, a Cape Union Mart spokesperson said, “The meeting with Cosatu and Sactwu was beneficial in order to give the company an opportunity to clarify its truth. We also reaffirmed our position that continued boycotts may result in job losses. Cape Union Mart has 3 600 staff, of which 400 are Muslim.”
Following the meeting, De Bruyn reaffirmed Cosatu’s support for Palestine, but said it had wanted to hear Cape Union Mart’s side of the story. Both Cosatu and Sactwu said they would continue to monitor the situation. In response to questions from the SA Jewish Report regarding possible resolution, the Cape Union Mart spokesperson was unable to comment given the sensitive nature of the discussions.
Meanwhile, as reported by the Weekend Argus, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) coalition stuck to its guns in spite of the points raised during the meeting, calling Cape Union Mart’s claims about not funding the Israeli army “disingenuous” and a “lie”.
In response to an article published on the front page of the Cape Argus on 20 November, in which BDS co-ordinator Roshan Dadoo accused Cape Union Mart of supporting the Israel Defense Forces, Daniel Bloch, the executive director of the Cape South African Jewish Board of Deputies, defended the company, hitting out against the misinformation spread by BDS.
In the original article, Dadoo said, “We targeted Cape Union Mart because after 7 October, the owner, Philip Krawitz, spoke at a public rally pledging, in fact, Cape Town’s support for Israel and the aim was to raise money for the Israeli war fund. He’s clearly supporting the genocide taking place in Gaza.”
In his letter published by the Cape Argus on 24 November, Bloch wrote, “This is defamation against Mr Krawitz and yet another example of the BDS coalition’s antisemitic attack on Jewish businesses. On Sunday, 15 October, during the peace rally, Mr Krawitz said, ‘We will support the Victims of Terror Fund, and that is hugely important.’ We would like to know where Ms Dadoo received her information from, and would like to understand why she has tried to mislead the South African public.”
Speaking to the SA Jewish Report this week, Bloch said that groups spearheading such company boycotts need to understand who will ultimately be impacted by them. “The answer,” he said, “is the ordinary South African citizen. The South African citizen who is going to work and earning their salary so that they can put food on the table, put clothes on their family’s backs, and send their children to school to give them an education and a brighter future.”
If a company loses revenue as a result of boycotts or is forced to shut down, it will be forced into retrenchments and jobs will be lost, Bloch said. “There are no winners in this situation, and there’s no benefit for the Palestinian people. Israel won’t suddenly stop doing what it’s doing because BDS is boycotting a company.
“BDS and other pro-Palestinian organisations have again shown their true nature. They are anti-Israel, they are antisemitic, they are discriminatory, and they don’t care about South African people. It’s all about their own modus operandi. South Africans need to wake up and see these organisations for what they are, that they are not benefitting us as South Africans in any way.”