South Africa: Pig's Head Placed in Kosher Section

A student group protesting Israel's actions in Gaza places pig's head in Woolworths store in Cape Town.

Ben Ariel,

BDS boycotters (file)
BDS boycotters (file)

The Congress of South African Students (Cosas) provoked anger on social media on the weekend when its members decided to protest Israel’s actions in Gaza by placing the heads of pigs in the kosher section of Woolworths stores, reports the News24 website.

A photo which appeared on Twitter shows a man with a pig’s head, apparently in the kosher and halal section of a Woolworths branch in Sea Point, Cape Town, according to the report.

In a statement released by Cosas, the body said it supported the call by the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement (BDS) not to buy from Woolworths.

“We are not being bombastic when we say will bring the supporters of Israel pigs - we are being revolutionary,” Cosas in the Western Cape said, according to News24.

BDS distanced itself from Cosas’s actions, saying, “We believe that the methods used, namely placing pigs heads in South African Woolworths stores, are very controversial and may not have been properly thought through.”

“It may be argued that the placing of pig heads is a form of militant human rights action however there is a great amount of sensitivity surrounding halal and kosher food,” it said.

“The pig heads have now effectively made various Woolworths Stores a complete no-go zone for those that buy kosher or halal as those areas are now contaminated,” added the movement.

Mary Kluk, chairwoman of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD), told the South African Press Association (SAPA) that Cosas did not deny that it had done this.

“A press statement issued by Cosas Western Cape chairperson Siphakamise Ngxowa, inter alia declared that Cosas ‘will not allow people who will not eat pork to pretend that they are eating clean meat, when it is sold by hands dripping with the blood of Palestinian children’,” said Kluk, according to SAPA.

The SAJBD was appalled by the incident and said it was a “hate-filled demonstration”.

Kluk said that as pork is strictly forbidden by the Jewish dietary laws this action was an offensive one, aimed at intimidating the Jewish community.

“In the past, however, such acts were carried out anonymously. By contrast, Cosas has not only done so in full public view, but has gone about widely publicizing this gross act of bigotry,” she said.

The SAJBD was investigating its options on how it could take the matter further.

Woolworths said it would also carry out an investigation.

“Woolworths is appalled by this incident. Placing a pig's head in our store is unacceptable and offensive to our employees and customers, including Jewish and Muslim employees and customers,” group director of retail operations Paula Disberry said, according to SAPA.

“We will destroy any halal products that may be affected and take any other appropriate measures,” she said, adding that there were no kosher food products on the affected shelf.

South Africa has frequently been critical of Israel and has claimed that it is applying a policy of “apartheid” towards Palestinian Arabs. Last June, the former South African ambassador to Israel rejected a symbolic gift from the Israeli government, planting trees in his honor in a national park named after South Africa.

He explained that Israeli policies which, he claims, discriminate against Arabs appeared to be reminiscent of his experiences under South Africa's apartheid system.

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

At the same time, South African president Jacob Zuma has emphasized that his government is committed to combating anti-Semitism.

Zuma, while voicing outrage over civilian deaths in Israel's campaign in Gaza, has distanced himself from calls to expel the Israeli ambassador from South Africa.