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Woolies pulls Israeli couscous after 'credible' threats, stresses it is not supporting boycott

| Supplier news

By: Ahmed Areff – Fin24

Woolworths has pulled Israeli-imported pearl couscous from its shelves, but has emphasised that the move was preemptive due to threats it received and not because it supported a boycott of the country’s products or was pro-Palestinian.

"Given the significant and credible threats we have received, and in order to do our best to safeguard our employees and customers, we took the decision to preemptively suspend the sale of the one product we had on our shelves that was imported from Israel," the retailer said in a statement on Friday.

It added:

Despite reports commending us for taking a pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli position – we have not. Woolworths would like to explicitly affirm that we neither support nor boycott anyone. Woolworths has no political affiliations and does not support any political party, organisation or country.

On Thursday, NGO Africa4Palestine said it welcomed the decision of Woolworths to not stock Israeli products, demonstrating "its commitment to being a socially responsible corporate citizen".

"This brings to an end the calls for a boycott of Woolworths. Africa4Palestine encourages other companies to follow Woolworths' example and thus we will be engaging other retailers to follow the Woolworths example."

Woolworths has, however, said it refused to "add to the division and divisiveness".

"Many of us have been deeply affected in various ways by the atrocities and death of innocent people we are witnessing on our screens. Intolerance is on the rise and, we as an organisation, cannot and will not add fuel to the fire, and will always continue to seek ways to bring people together."

On 7 October, members of Hamas killed around 1 200 people and took more than 230 hostages in southern Israel. There have been calls to boycott numerous companies with direct or indirect ties to Israel in the wake of the country’s retaliatory strikes against Gaza, which has left over 11 000 people dead, around half of which are women and children, according to the World Health Organisation.

Some of the boycott calls have been made against multinationals such as Coca-Cola and McDonalds. Locally, aside from Woolworths, which faced previous boycotts over Israeli products, Cape Union Mart has faced criticism over its chair Philip Krawitz’s ties to Israel. Business Insider previously reported that in 2015, Philip Krawitz made headlines after receiving the global Yakir award from Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal, the official fundraising organisation for Israel.

Krawitz told the South African Jewish Report at the time, in an article that was subsequently edited and later removed, that he believed the award was because he spearheaded the local fundraising efforts for Operation Protective Edge, Israel's 2014 military operation in Gaza.

News24 reported this week that South Africa's largest padel club group, Africa Padel, has been threatened by boycotts following controversial remarks by its chairperson Robert Hersov. The video prompted criticism from social media users and pro-Palestinian groups, who have been urging South Africans to boycott Africa Padel. #BoycottAfricaPadel has also circulated on social media platforms as users have cancelled their bookings at clubs.

Woolworths' statement: Setting the record straight

Media articles claiming that Woolworths supports an Israeli boycott are inaccurate and we want to set the record straight. Despite reports commending us for taking a pro- Palestinian or anti-Israeli position – we have not. Woolworths would like to explicitlyaffirm that we neither support nor boycott anyone. Woolworths has no political affiliations and does not support any political party, organisation or country.

In a world that is already polarised and where misinformation, misunderstanding, and suffering are fuelling heightened emotion, we refuse to add to the division and divisiveness. Many of us have been deeply affected in various ways by the atrocities and death of innocent people we are witnessing on our screens. Intolerance is on the rise and, we as an organisation, cannot and will not add fuel to the fire, and will always continue to seek ways to bring people together.

As always, the safety and wellbeing of our employees and customers is our top priority. Given the significant and credible threats we have received, and in order to do our best to safeguard our employees and customers, we took the decision to preemptively suspend the sale of the one product we had on our shelves that was imported from Israel.

Woolies always endeavours to do the right thing by our employees, our customers and society at large. We continue to do this as we navigate these very challenging times.

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