By Therezia Cooper & Tom Anderson
The Psagot Winery visitors’ centre is located in the illegal settlement of Psagot, positioned just outside Ramallah and Al Bireh in the West Bank. Established in 1981, the settlement hosts the headquarters of the Binyamin Regional Council and has a population of over 1600 people.
Originally, the winery itself was also based there, but in 2008 it moved a few minutes down the road to the East Jerusalem settlement, Pisgat Ze’ev. Its first vineyards were planted on stolen land in 1998 and the winery has been operational since 2003. It produces around 100,000 bottles of wine per year, most – but not all – of which is sold in Israel. The winery’s vineyards are located within the West Bank.
The Israeli settlement wine export industry might not yet be huge, but settlement wineries are growing and have a big impact on Palestinians. The planting of vineyards facilitates settlement expansion and is an easy way to take over Palestinian land. Just like with other settlement businesses there is also state support for individuals willing to operate from the West Bank. For a full report of all the facts around Israel’s settlement wine industry, read the excellent report by Who Profits? Forbidden Fruit: The Israeli Wine Industry and the Occupation.
Occupier controlled tourism
One way in which wineries in the West Bank and the occupied Syrian Golan try to attract custom is to make their vineyards into tourism attractions.
This is the case with the Psagot ’boutique’ winery. Actively encouraging Israeli-controlled tourism to occupied territory, it shares a building with the Nachalat Binyamin Visitors Centre. Both are promoted by the Israel Ministry of Tourism. During a visit, you can combine wine tasting and a tour of the winery with an ‘educational’ tour consisting of interactive experiences, multimedia and films.
Ideologically motivated, the materials shown expose the visitors “to the strategic, security and financial importance of the Binyamin region.” for Israel and “the connection between man and land in Binyamin”. What they do not show is reality of life for Palestinians living under occupation. Tours are available in several languages. Though mainly aimed at Jewish tourists (we were asked if we were Jewish when we visited), Christians are also a target group for this kind of West Bank tourism. The winery has reportedly had American Christian volunteers working in their vineyards.
Rewarding the occupiers
Settlement wineries stand to gain in reputation through participation in international wine competitions. As the ‘Vinalies Internationales’ website states “To win a medal at Vinalies Internationales is also to benefit from an opportunity to boost your sales efforts”. One way for BDS activists to target Psagot, and other West Bank grown settler wines, would be to challenge their in these competitions. One way to do this would be to challenge the description of wine produced on Israeli settlements as ‘Israeli’ wine.
Wine competitions to target
This competition’s ‘conditions of admission’ section states that ”All products must indicate the country where the grapes have been harvested in and made into wine”, and that “Only wines respecting the stipulations expressed in article 40 of the EEC. regulation N°2392/89, namely those relative to the origin and the source, will be accepted”. As shown in the picture above, Psagot has entered its wines into this competition as ‘Israeli’ despite the company sourcing and processing its grapes on occupied Palestinian territory.
21-23, rue de Croulebarbe, 75013 PARIS
Tel: +33 1 58 52 20 20
As this competition is held in Israel it would be a harder target, although the TerraVino has representatives around the world who could be contacted.
Contacts for TerraVino
Raul Castellani (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Moises Spak (email@example.com)
TEL : +972 547 629 101
Fax : +972 3518 9001
Psagot Wines’ distributor in the UK is the Kosher wine distributor and importer Royal Wine UK/Kedem Europe Ltd:
Block B – OCC Estate
105 Eade Road
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8802 8889
It is represented internationally by Royal Wine Corp.