Woolworths: We won't cut ties with Israeli companies

Woolworths says it’s guided by the govt who said SA companies are allowed to freely trade with Israel.

FILE: Woolworths says it’s guided by the govt who said SA companies are allowed to freely trade with Israel. Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN - Woolworths says it won't be cutting ties with Israeli companies.

The retail giant has come under fire from a number of civil society groups in the country for sourcing some of its products from Israel.

Demonstrators staged a protest outside Woolworths' head offices in Cape Town on Wednesday, where the company was holding its annual general meeting.

Civil society group, the National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P) and the Boycotts, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) group are trying to pressure the retailer to stop doing business with Israeli companies, demanding that the R12 million agreement be ended due to the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestine.

The meeting turned chaotic at times, with the scheduled question and answer session lasting almost two hours and shareholders interrupting the chairman regularly.

The NC4P's Edwin Arrison says, "Nothing stops the campaign, it will go ahead and this meeting now will be called and we'll see to what it can be resolved in."

Woolworths' Susie Squire says the retailer has always been transparent in its operations.

"Woolworths, like all South African retailers, is guided by the South African government. The South African government made it clear that South African companies are free to trade with Israeli companies."

Meanwhile, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions group (BDS) says despite being unable to force Woolworths to cut ties with Israeli companies, it will push ahead with its campaign.

BDS spokesman Muhammed Desai says their point has been made.

"We managed to dominate the entire meeting with this issue of trade and the boycotts. The management of Woolworths were clearly visibly embarrassed and flustered at many of the questions, which they either evaded or fumbled on when answering."

But President Jacob Zuma says his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, clarified the scope of the BDS movement during his visit to Pretoria on Wednesday.

"They said no, sorry, that's not correct. We have said boycott the products that come from illegally occupied places in Gaza, that is what must be boycotted not other things."