Ebrahim Moosa – Cii News (16-12-11)
Pro-Palestinian activists are up in arms after a major South African pharmacy chain harshly rebuffed calls by a consumer to remove Israeli goods from its shelves. The retailer, Dis-Chem, which boasts scores of stores across South Africa also stands accused of defending controversial Israeli occupation and military policies.
The fracas began when Fatima Moosa, a health enthusiast, raised an objection to the company’s stocking of Israeli products at a branch in Durban. In an online submission to the Dis-Chem website, she expressed her dissapointment that the store imported products from a country whose human rights violations she described as “replicating Hitler’s Nazism.” She further appealed to the company to consider removing Israeli products from its shelves.
Responding to her query, a Dis-Chem customer care officer briefly replied that the correspondence was brought to the attention of one of the company’s directors who ruled out removing Israeli products from the store’s shelves, providing no further explanation.
Unsatisfied, Moosa once again wrote to the store requesting that her sentiments be conveyed to the director in question. Citing a moral imperative, she appealed to him to distance the company from Israeli products just as a host of Jewish groups-both locally and abroad had censured the Israeli regime and called for sanctions against it.
After a lull in communication for almost a month, Moosa received an email response to her grievance from Dis-Chem group CEO Ivan Saltzman, this week. The director’s harsh tone and uneqovical defence of his company’s stance has been widely slated, with many calling it “arrogant” and proposing a boycott of the company.
Saltzman took serious offence to Moosa’s likening of Israel’s human rights violations to Nazism, calling it a “scurrilous slur.” He retorted by alleging that resistance groupings such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad were the “true modern day Nazis in the Middle East,” for what he called their aspirations to murder Israeli Jews. Israel, he said, went to extraordinary lengths to minimise civilian casulaties and has been extremely successful in this regard.”
Responding to Moosa’s call to boycott Israeli-made products, the CEO said that consumers were free to adopt such measures as citizens of a free country. He however took aim at what he saw as the shortcomings of such a strategy. Citing many examples of what he described as Israeli innovations – from computer chips, to stents, diabetes patches and drip irrigation – Saltzman told Moosa to consider carefully what she was boycotting.
“The list that Israel has given the world is very lengthy,” he added.
Saltzman pledged that Dis-Chem would continue to sell Dead Sea products from Israel, picking another bone with Moosa and Palestinian supporters in the process.
“You know the Dead Sea has two shores. I wonder why the Jordanians or Palestinians(most come from Jordan) do not want to share this wonderful natural resource of the Dead Sea. I will not respond to any further correspondence on your subject.”
Moosa said she was very dissapointed with Saltzman’s response. In email correspondence in Cii’s possession, she pledged to take corrective action.
“I am a health enthusiast, and shop regularly at Dis-Chem. I am going to try my best to boycott Dis-Chem. By his [Saltzman's] response alone, you can judge where his allegiances lie.”
Attempts to reach Saltzman yesterday proved unsuccessful with a Dis-Chem staffer telling Cii that the CEO was currently on leave.