“We have not yet made any assumptions against Israel. It’s not government’s call,” said department spokesman Sidwell Medupe.
“People in South Africa are free to trade with Israel and Israel is free to trade with South Africa.”
He said South Africa’s trade policy was aligned with its foreign policy, recently highlighted by President Jacob Zuma at the US-Africa summit in Washington.
Twice on Monday Zuma took the opportunity to tell the United States what South Africa’s position on Gaza was.
Firstly at a US Chamber of Commerce business forum, he said the country was outraged by the “continued violence that is claiming scores of lives of civilians in Palestine”.
Zuma said there would never be a military solution to the problem and urged both sides to sit and talk so that they could arrive at an internationally agreed solution of two states.
At a National Press Club luncheon, he changed his words a bit, also criticising Hamas.
“We are outraged by the killing of civilians by Israel, some in United Nations shelters,” he said at the time.
“We also condemn the killing of Israeli civilians by Hamas.”
The National Coalition for Palestine (NC4P) said on Wednesday it was calling for a boycott of all Woolworths stores because the chain had refused to remove Israeli products from its stores.
NC4P spokesman Edwin Arrison said the coalition was made up of the ANC Youth League, the Muslim Judicial Council, the Congress of SA Trade Unions, and other bodies.
“The call to boycott is due to Woolworths’s unwavering support for the apartheid state of Israel, and comes after much research and assessment of the status and level of trade between the chain store and the Israeli state,” Arrison said.
He said the coalition would call for boycotts of other companies once it had conducted further research.
Woolworths responded in a statement on Wednesday that it had no political affiliations.
“We respect our customers’ right to make individual purchasing choices, which is why we clearly label every product’s country of origin and fully comply with government guidelines on product from Israel,” it stated.
The company said that less than 0.1 percent of their food, mostly imported fresh produce, was sourced from Israel.