given by Corporate Watch at the Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair:
given by Corporate Watch at the Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair:
Almost every morning, between 3 and 4am, hundreds of workers from outside the Jordan Valley, from towns as far away as Nablus and even Jenin, queue at Al Hamra checkpoint, sometimes for hours, to get to work at the Israeli settlements in the valley. Often workers arrive too early, for fear of losing their job if the delays are bad, and sleep in the fields on the other side of the checkpoint.
Palestinian workers on Israeli settlements are routinely paid below minimum wage.
The settler bosses are seldom seen before the more civilised time of 9am.
Workers often encounter repression at Al Hamra checkpoint. Corporate Watch has heard reports and witnessed Palestinians being bodysearched, stripsearched or forced to wear blindfold while soldiers check IDs. Travellers are often subjected to insults and abuse by soldiers at Al Hamra.
The Barkan industrial zone, part of the Ariel settlement block, was founded in 1982 and is the second largest industrial zone in the West Bank. As all industrial zones connected to settlements, businesses operating there receive generous tax reductions from the Israeli government. During the last few years Barkan has been making the BDS headlines through campaigns against companies such as Mul-T-Lock (Assa Abloy) and Beigel and Beigel. One company located in Barkan is the Israeli owned kosher food distributor Shamir Salads (51% owned by Willi-Food) who, according to their web-site, export their produce to Russia, the UK, Holland, Denmark, France, Ukraine, Canada and the US. Specialising in ready made salads and various houmous and aubergine dips, they also service “several food distribution routes for the Israeli Defence Forces”. Shamir Salads have been exposed as deliberately mislabelling their settlement produce, with the latest evidence being produced by Gush Shalom, an Israeli group calling for a boycott of Israel’s settlements, in March, when they found Shamir Salads products in the Netherlands labelled as Israeli despite being made in their Barkan facility (see http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/press_releases/1269703726/ ).
Throughout our research around the West Bank it has become obvious that one of the most common ways for international companies to profit from the occupation market is through secondary involvements, such as operating franchises, in Israel’s illegal settlements. Companies such as Blockbuster, Tower Records and Lee Cooper have franchises of their businesses in settlements, Western Union trade in settlements automatically through their deal with the Israeli Post Office.
International companies like these accept royalties from their franchisee’s for the right to use the brand, boost their brand recognition and open a maket for their goods. However, by operating in a less direct way, they hope to be held less accountable for their actions.
For the BDS movement to let this happen would be a mistake.
One good example of how a seemingly distant involvement by a company can have a huge impact on the ground is the agreement by the mobile phone company Orange, which is owned by France Télécom, to license the Israeli Partner Communications Company to use its name and logo. Orange now has a shop or kiosk in many of the larger settlements in both the West Bank and the occupied Golan and advertises very heavily in them. Orange mobile phone masts (operated by Partner Communications) are located both inside the settlements themselves and on land specifically confiscated for the masts. The masts are situated to benefit the settlements and the Israeli army. The Palestinian Authority, in its crack down on settlements and enforcement of the boycott, recently called for all Israeli mobile phone networks, including Orange, to be banned in Palestinian cities. Orange is entirely separate from the Partner Communications Company, but this does not mean that they are innocents in the situation.
When Partner launched Orange Israel the brandname was registered by Hutchison Whampoa, who were a major shareholder in Partner. The success of the new network when it was launched in 1999 is generally considered one of the best advertising efforts undertaken in Israel, largely due to the brandname. Hutchison Whampoa divested their shares from Partner in 2009. Since France Télécom took over Orange PLC in 2000 they have made a conscious decision to keep supporting the activities of the Israeli company, whose success relies heavily on Orange brand recognition. By withdrawing the licence for their name and logo Orange could take a very visible stance against the occupation rather that silently aiding it.
Partner Communications (Orange Israel) has kiosks in the settlements of Pisgat Ze’ev and Modi’in Illit and has erected over 160 antennas and telecommunication infrastructure facilities on occupied territory.
For Who Profits’ page on the Partner Communications Company see: http://www.whoprofits.org/Company%20Info.php?id=713
Partner Communications Company is now controlled by Ilan Ben-Dov’s company Scailex Corporation which owns 51% of its shares.
France Telecom (www.francetelecom.com) is based in Paris. The company has offices and franchises worldwide
Beqa’ot is an illegal settlement located in the Jordan Valley. Established in 1972, it is agriculturally focused and controls around 1800 dunums of land which were stolen from surrounding Palestinian areas, such as the Bedouin community of Al Hadidya. Beqa’ot is a grower for the Israeli company Mehadrin Tnuport Export (MTEX), a part of the huge Mehadrin Group which also owns 50% of STM Agricultural Exports Ltd -another Israeli company dealing in vegetables. MTEX export around 70% of all their produce to outside Israel and are one of the largest suppliers for the Jaffa brand world wide. According to Palestinian workers in the settlement, Mehadrin has had a monopoly on exports from there for around two years. Before that they also used to work with Carmel Agrexco. Some Arava boxes were also spotted inside the settlement packing area. Continue reading
The Syrian Golan was occupied by military force by Israel in 1967. Towns and villages and cities of the indigenous Syrian residents were razed and 131, 000 of the residents forcibly expelled. The area remains under military occupation and has been colonised by Israeli settlers who have established 33 settlements inhabited by around 18000 colonists.
Israel hopes to normalise the occupation of the heights, and make the settlements economically viable, by promoting the area as a major tourist destination.
Tourism in the occupied Syrian Golan is promoted through dozens of websites, none of which describe destination as ‘occupied Golan heights’ or as an Israeli settlement’. Here are a few of the hotels advertising rooms in Afik, a Southern Golan settlement established in 1967 close to the remains of Fiq, whose residents had been epelled by the Israeli army.
www.hotelscombined.com advertises, and offers web bookings, for a guesthouse in the Israeli settlement of Afik. Hotels combined is an online booking service advertising rooms all over the world, based in Sydney.Rooms in Afik are also advertised on easytobook.com - a web booking company based in Switzerland webtourist.net – also based in Switzerland, booking.com part of priceline.com – a company with offices all over the world including in london (see here). Maplandia also offers a booking service in Afik thriough information provided by booking.com Rooms in hotels in Afik can also be booked at venere.com – a company with offices in Rome, Paris and London.
Burger King has announced that it plans to pull out of the 55 branches of its Israeli franchise
Burger Ranch currently operates 107 resteraunts in Israel, including several based in illlegal settlements:
Burger Ranch is owned in Israel by Orgad Holdings.
Several companies were advertising construction work at the settlement of Kibbutz Kalia when Corporate Watch visited in April. At the gate to Kalia half finished homes can be seen, along with a sign for the Evelon (www.evelon.com) Real Estate Company. The ‘luxury villa project, dubbed “Qalya Vistas, The Cherry of the Dead Sea”, advertises 54 new housing units. The executing contractor is named as Ts. P Construction and ‘management and supervision’ by Peled Klein Civil Engineering (www.peled-klein.co.il) in Yoqne’am Illit (more about Peled Klein at http://www.whoprofits.org/Company%20Info.php?id=566).
Evelon seems be aimed at US buyers, a special drop down menu on their site allows customers to select the US state they live in.
Corporate Watch paid a visit to Agrexco’s packing house on the land of the illegal settlement of Kibbutz Kalia, on the Northern Coast of the Dead Sea, during April 2010. The packing house is next to fields of date palms. Thai migrant workers could be seen tending to the palms from cherypickers. Inside the packing house herbs were being packed into boxes marked ‘Carmel ECOFRESH: Produce of Kibbutz Kalia, USA’. ECOFRESH is one of Agrexco’s newer brands which is supposed to represent better food quality (see, for example, http://www.thegrocer.co.uk/articles.aspx?page=articles&ID=52941). Workers inside told us that the herbs were being exported to the US. Continue reading
Big corporations are not alone in implementing the Israeli occupation on the ground. Especially in the smaller settlements which do not yet have any industry or commercial outlets, ideological charities and religious groups play a crucial role when it comes to encouraging settlement expansion. This is the case with Maskiot, the first new settlement to be approved in the West Bank for a decade when it was officially established in the middle of 2008.
Located in the Jordan Valley, an area under heavy threat of Israeli annexation, (See, for example, http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=3403 ) Maskiot is strongly Zionist and inhabited by ex-Gaza settlers determined to continue to steal Palestinian land and ‘repopulate’ the Valley with Jews. In other words, ethnically cleanse the area of Palestinians. Last week (Sunday the 28thof April), as a clear provocation, armed settlers from Maskiot entered the Bedouin area of Al Maleh and set up a tent only ten meters from the community, preventing the people there from accessing some of their land (see http://www.brightonpalestine.org/node/618). This act follows numerous acts of aggression against the people of Al Maleh during the last few years. The settlers are helped in these pursuits by their supporters. In the case of Maskiot this means The One Israel Fund and Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, who have both contributed to Maskiot’s development. Continue reading