Report Back: South African coalition launches campaign to boycott Israeli apartheid products

A coalition of Palestinian solidarity movements are tightening their plans for a major Israeli boycott campaign, set to kick off on Tuesday 30th March. Consumers will be urged to boycott all Israeli products as part of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, in protest of the government’s expanding Zionist policies, which has seen tensions rise in Palestine over the past few weeks.

The first activity earmarked for the 30th March is the “Guerilla Shopping” campaign, in which Palestinian activists will be tasked with spreading awareness of the Israeli goods boycott. This campaign will be initiated in Johannesburg, but will be rolled out across the country at a later stage, said Cosatu coordinator Tahir Sema.

“Participants would visit a particular supermarket and select products from Israel. The activists will take the items to the checkout counter and refuse to pay for them – to make a bold statement against Israel. We want people to say they will not buy Israeli products…because the Palestinian blood is on them,” he explained.

No List

Sema said the names of the products are not available as it was a mammoth task to compile a list of items by name and its manufacturer. The organization has therefore decided to circulate the barcodes of the products, identified by the 729 barcode number.

“The first three digits identify the country of origin of any product. We therefore urge the consumer to look for the product starting with 729 and to refrain from buying these products. Furthermore, consumers can go one step further by alerting the store’s management to remove the products off the shelves.”

The trade union will rally its members in the catering and retail industries to join the project. Union members employed by certain supermarket chains will be mobilized and urged to participate in the protest action staged outside the specific retail outlets targeted by the BDS campaign. Also, two of the major universities in Gauteng – Wits and the University of Johannesburg – will host separate campaigns to educate ordinary South Africans on the Palestinian plight.

A number of civil society groups and political parties have joined forces to form this movement called the Coalition for a Free Palestine (CFP). These include the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC), Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSM), African National Congress (ANC), South African Communist Party (SACP), South African Council of Churches (SACC) and Cosatu’s trade union affiliates such as the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) and others.

Lenasia vs CTN

This public campaign follows a successful initiative undertaken by a couple in Lenasia, who had identified 79 types of Israeli produce at a Fruit and Veg store in the area. The pair managed to make the owners remove all the Israeli imported goods and since then, the store does not stock any Israeli items.

“This was an individual effort and shows how important perseverance is. It shows how this campaign can be achieved in a personal capacity or as a collective effort to help the Palestinian people. The 79 barcodes is a list we must spread and raise awareness in all our supermarkets,” he said.

The campaign will be rolled out across the country at a later stage. The organizations within the coalition would therefore mobilize its branches in Cape Town to take the initiative forward. In the meantime, Capetonians are urged take an active role in raising awareness on the Palestinian situation. Sema said it was important for Capetonians to get involved in any small way, given the lack of capacity to implement projects of this nature.

“Cape Town is a very important place for us to execute this operation as the spirit of activism we have witnessed over the past years has been unmatched in the country. Cape Town would therefore be a key city to roll out this campaign.” Tasneem Mohamed.

(The Voice of the Cape)

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