BDS fruitless as Slovenian supermarket brings back Israeli produce

Country’s largest chain cancels reported boycott two days after removing produce from shelves

Raoul Wootliff is a former Times of Israel political correspondent and Daily Briefing podcast producer.

A Mercator Center in New Belgrade, Slovenia. (Михајло Анђелковић/Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0)
A Mercator Center in New Belgrade, Slovenia. (Михајло Анђелковић/Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

Slovenia’s largest supermarket chain has reportedly reversed a decision to pull Israeli produce from its shelves, just two days after the apparent boycott was exposed by Israeli media.

Following strong opposition by Israel’s Foreign Ministry, the Mercator chain has renewed orders for Israeli-grown pomelos and avocados despite pressure from the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement, the Ynet news site reported Thursday.

Earlier in the week it was revealed that the store had removed Israeli products from its shelves – including citrus fruits, dates and avocados, following calls to do so from the BDS movement. The decision marked a victory for the movement, which seeks to isolate and delegitimize Israel internationally.

Jerusalem had reportedly summoned Slovenian Ambassador Barbara Susnik to the Foreign Ministry, where senior officials notified her of the gravity of the move.

Israeli grown Jaffa Oranges. (GPO)
Israeli grown Jaffa oranges. (GPO)

Mercator did not officially admit it had decided to boycott Israeli products but the Foreign Ministry confirmed the store had stopped placing orders, Ynet said.

The ministry declined to comment on Mercator’s about-face.

In response to the initial reports the Slovenian Embassy told The Times of Israel that “there is no boycott of Israeli products in Slovenia.”

“The EU-Israel Association Agreement is the basis for Israel’s special status also in relations with Slovenia. Since 2014 the Slovenian Government has no shares in the Mercator chain. The relations between Israel and Slovenia are traditionally good and marked by diversified cooperation, particularly in the fields of the economy, science, research, high technologies and tourism,” said an embassy spokesman.

The chain had previously tried to pull Jaffa-branded Israeli grapefruits in 2014 under pressure from BDS activists, but backtracked after strong pushback from Jerusalem and local allies.

In November, Berlin’s largest department store removed several Israeli goods from its shelves following a European Union rule outlawing “Made in Israel” tags on products made in the West Bank or Golan Heights.

KaDeWe, Germany's largest department store, Berlin (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, Beek100)
KaDeWe, Germany’s largest department store, Berlin (Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0, Beek100)

A spokesperson for KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens) clarified, however, that the goods would once again be sold by the store after they were labeled in accordance with the new EU guidelines.

The store later apologized for the move and said it had acted too hastily.

Luxembourg’s largest supermarket chain, Cactus, also ceased the sale of Israeli produce last summer following pressure by pro-Palestinian groups, but said that they would be reinstated once the supplier proved they were not from the West Bank.

Lee Gancman contributed to this report.

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