Students “stopped shop” at Woolworths in Campus Square during Israeli Apartheid Week , calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel last Thursday.
A dozen students from the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC) from Wits and UJ held a flash mob at Woolworths in Melville.
Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an annual international series of events held in cities and campuses across the globe from March 7-20. According to its website, “The aim of IAW is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement.”
A “stop shop” involves going into a shop that is known to sell Israeli goods and putting one or two in your trolley, along with other products.Once the protesters reach the tills they refuse to pay for the products because they claim that trading in Israeli settlement goods means the shop is profiting from and supporting the Israeli occupation and this is politically offensive. Woolworths stocks Israeli tomatoes, cucumbers and Jaffa oranges.
The aim is to block as many tills as possible and attract the attention of the patrons of the store. “This form of action serves as a great awareness-raising platform, catching the attention of other shoppers, the press and also serves as a way to demand that these supermarkets essentially stop selling Israeli products altogether,” the IAW website says.
The PSC felt that many customers where indifferent and apathetic. Sophie Aoun, one of the protestors, said that a customer screamed, “Tell it to someone that cares.”
A Jewish woman took to the floor to share her views on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
The protestors where physically removed from the premises by security, who allegedly got hostile, especially when students filmed and photographed the flash mob. After they were removed some customers came to ask for more information, while some left the store.
Robert Freeman, PSC chairperson, said that the most tangible outcome of the action was that the manager has agreed to take the issue up with his superiors at Woolworths head office, as all decisions on stock are taken nationally. Freeman said they will check back with him in two weeks and see if any changes are made to the stocking of Israeli goods.