Pharrell gets lucky with low turnout for BDS protest

Published September 23rd, 2015 - 09:00 GMT

A planned protest against Grammy award-winning American musician Pharrell Williams by South African supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement somewhat fizzled, but the BDS movement nevertheless hailed it as successful.

About 2,000 people participated in the demonstration outside the GrandWest casino in Cape Town on Monday night, according to the South African website Eyewitness News, a far cry from the 40,000 the organizers had been hoping for.

Nevertheless, BDS said the demonstration was a success despite falling very short of the number of participants.

The members of the group are campaigning against Pharrell’s partnership with major South African retail group Woolworths, over its imports from Israel.

Earlier this year, Pharrell became Woolworths' new style director "in a ground-breaking collaboration across a series of sustainability-focused projects," the upmarket retailer said.

BDS spokesperson Kwara Kekana told Eyewitness News why they are campaigning against Woolworths’ creative partnership with Pharrell.

“Pharrell is targeted for two reasons; because of his collaboration with Woolworths and the fact that Woolworths trades with Israeli agricultural export companies,” said Kekana.

BDS says by collaborating with Woolworths, the Grammy winning musician is condoning human rights violations.

Woolworths has responded to the BDS movement, saying less than 0.1% of its food products are sourced from Israel, and the imports comply fully with South African government guidelines, meaning they don't come from Judea and Samaria.

Anti-Israel sentiments have been prevalent for years in South Africa, which has frequently been critical of Israel and has claimed that it is applying a policy of “apartheid” towards Palestinian Arabs. 

The latest example came earlier this month when , the ruling ANC party proposed new rules regarding dual citizenship meant to stop South African citizens from joining the IDF.

The head of the ANC’s National Executive Committee on International Relations, Obed Bapela, said dual citizenship may not have “a place in the world” and admitted the main concern is South Africans who are fighting for the Israeli army which, he claimed, goes against the foreign policy of the South African government.

South Africa's Chief Rabbi Dr. Warren Goldstein issued a stinging response to the proposed rules, calling out the ANC party on its hypocritical and "obsessive" stance vis-a-vis the State of Israel.

Israel is an integral part of Jewish identity, he emphasized, and said that such a move was therefore an attack on the core values of the Jewish community itself.

In recent years, South Africa has also imposed rules requiring that goods imported from Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem display special labels.

In another incident, President Jacob Zuma’s party has compared Israel’s airstrikes on Gaza to the actions of the Nazis during World War II, evoking outrage from Jewish groups in the country.

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