By Tom Anderson & Therezia Cooper
On February 9th a coalition of civil society groups has called for an international day of action against Israeli agricultural companies in line with the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli militarism, apartheid and colonisation. Corporate Watch researchers are in Palestine collecting new information and over the coming weeks Corporate Watch will be writing a series of articles and blogs examining Israeli agricultural exports.
Carmel-Agrexco was Israel’s main agricultural export company, exporting 70% of all fresh produce from Israel’s illegal settlements, until September 2011 when it was formally liquidated. Formerly state owned, Agrexco has been privately purchased by Bickel Flowers and, according to Who Profits?, has regained a significant proportion of its former market.
However, Agrexco’s misfortunes have left space for other companies to move into Agrexco’s export business from the occupied Jordan Valley, where the majority of the West Bank’s agricultural produce is grown. In Mehola settlement in the Northern Jordan Valley Agrexco packing houses which were active when Corporate Watch visited in 2010 are now standing dormant.
Mehadrin-Tnuport Export Company has largely stepped into the vacuum left by Agrexco but it is apparent when visiting the Jordan Valley settlements that a range of smaller companies are also expanding their business there (see our recent article about Mehadrin).
One such company is Hishtil. an Israeli company established in 1974 that boasts that it is “a market leader in the world of advanced horticultural nurseries” and has established a “global nurseries network” with “joint venture nurseries” in Turkey, Italy, South Africa Bulgaria, France and Bosnia. The company website also advertises projects in Greece, Russia, the Canary Islands, Guatemala and Honduras.
Hishtil’s corporate image video states that it exports “vegetables, herbs, flowering annuals and herbaceous perennials” to international markets as well as R&D development for plant nurseries including climate controls for greenhouses.
The company claims that “We conduct our operations while strictly maintaining values of integrity”. However, Hishtil is complicit in the settlement expansion which, backed up by military action, is threatening the existence of Palestinian communities.
Hishtil has its head office at Moshav Nehalim in 1948 Israel but it clearly sources its produce from growers in illegal Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley. Corporate Watch visited the settlement of Almog in the Southern Jordan Valley on the 12th January 2013 and photographed Hishtil signage in several of the greenhouse where Aubergines were growing.
On the same day Corporate Watch researchers visited Mehola settlement in the Northern Jordan Valley where Hishtil have a packing house.
Hishtil’s operations in Susya. Mehola and Almog are adding financial viability to the expansion of settlements which are causing the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian communities. On 16th January Israeli forces destroyed several structures belonging to the Bedouin community of Deir Hajla and Al Zur close to Almog, the following day the Israeli military declared a closed military zone around the community of Al Maleh, close to Mehola settlement and destroyed 55 buildings, leaving the residents of Al Maleh to sleep in the open.
The Palestinian village of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills, next to the Israeli settlement of the same name has experienced countless demolitions during the last three decades (such as this demolition on 1st December 2012). This ethnic cleansing of communities in Area C can only benefit Hishtil.
Despite its business in illegal Israeli settlements Hishtil boasts that it has been certified up to several internationally recognised standards including ISO 9001:2008, GLOBAL GAP, and several organic standards including USDA Organic (see here).
One opportunity for BDS campaigners may be to challenge the renewal of this certification on the basis of their business with the settlements.
Hishtil is clearly looking to grow as an international corporation. Its current international operations listed on its site are:
Centro Seia srl
Via Palestro 241
Sicily – Italy
tel – 39-932 – 914011
Hishtil South Africa – PTY
tel – 27-153954034, fax – 27153954010
Hishtil South Africa website: www.hishtilsa.com
Fidecilik Sanayi vi Ticaret a.s
Tekke Koyu gebiz yolu 10. km
tel – +90 242 7174045
Hishtil Adria (nursery under construction)
It is significant that these are joint operations. It may be possible for campaigners to pressure Hishtil’s international partners to end their relationships with Hishtil.
Hishtil’s vision is “to become a leading and innovative nursery firm, globally”.
It is the BDS movements job to make sure that the company’s dreams never come true. Hishtil is promoting itself at several international exhibitions during 2013, these international publicity exercises are a chance for BDS activists to take action against them:
|IPM||22-25 January||Essen, Germany|
|Fruit Logistica||6-8 Febuary||Berlin, Germany|
|Salon Du Vegetal||19-21 Febuary||France|
|Pack Trials USA||6-11 April||California, USA|
|Spring Trials NL||6-14 June||The Netherlands|
|Plantarium||21-24 August||Boskop, The Netherlands|
|Four Oaks||3-4 September||Birmingham, England|
|Flormart||12-14 September||Padova, Italy|