By Therezia Cooper & Tom Anderson
On February 9th 2013 a coalition of civil society groups has called for an international day of action against Israeli agricultural companies in line with the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli militarism, apartheid and colonisation. Corporate Occupation/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.
Corporate Occupation has obtained evidence that EDOM, a partly British owned agricultural export company, is still exporting fresh produce from the illegal settlement of Tomer. On Wednesday 16th January 2013 researchers acquired EDOM branded packaging which had been taken from Tomer settlement. The packaging had been mislabelled as coming from a kibbutz in 1948 Israel. The company director has previously pledged not to stock goods from the settlements.
EDOM supply to several major British supermarkets, including Waitrose and Sainsburys, through the British company Valley Grown Salads, based in Essex.
In 2010 Corporate Watch visited Tomer settlement and found evidence that EDOM, a company owned by three British companies, was exporting from Tomer. Researchers obtained boxes from a packing house in Tomer bearing the EDOM logo, photographed a truck bearing EDOM signage picking up goods from the settlement and a packing house bearing an EDOM sign.
Corporate Watch wrote an open letter to Valley Grown Salads, a company which has part ownership of EDOM, pointing out that Tomer was established on Palestinian land, is illegal under international law and that the British government’s position is that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are unlawful (see the FCO website). In response Jimmy Russo, director of Valley Grown Salads (VGS) and Chairman of EDOM, pledged that EDOM and VGS would not trade with the settlements in the future.
Despite the name, EDOM UK is an Israeli company. Valley Grown Salads (UK) own 20% of the shares in EDOM UK. Another British company, Glinwell PLC, own another 20%. 30% is owned by a company called Chosen Agricultural Products, which consists of farmers from Moshavs in the Arava region, and a further 30% by a company called Magnolia UK holdings (see here).
Back in 2010 Russo told us that EDOM had been trading with a grower from Tomer called Yair Azoulay but had stopped working with him around three years before. However both Azoulay and a Yaron Yarchi, of EDOM in Israel, confirmed that there had been exports to Valley Grown Salads in the UK from Tomer.
Now it seems that Russo and Valley Grown Salads have broken their promise not to stock from the settlements. It is of utmost importance that the BDS movement takes action against this company. Campaigners have spotted Waitrose trucks picking up products from the VGS depot in Essex as well as EDOM products on the shelves of Sainsburys’ stores. It is important that the movement acts to pressure these supermarkets not to stock goods from EDOM or VGS.
Settlement expansion in the Jordan Valley is happening at the expense of Palestinian communities. While companies like EDOM UK, Mehadrin, and Agrexco make a profit out of the cheap Palestinian workforce the Israeli military is carrying out a campaign to drive communities out of the majority of the Jordan Valley to make way for Israeli annexation.
Last week, on Thursday 17th January, 55 structures were bulldozed in the Bedouin community of Al Maleh, leaving the residents to sleep out in the open. When aid organisations provided tents, they were confiscated by the military and a Closed Military Zone was put in place preventing access to solidarity activists and journalists.
Members of the community in Al Maleh started to erect their tents again this week. However, on the morning of the 24th the army returned and demolished a further two houses and two animal sheds. The soldiers told the villagers that if they tried to put their tents up again they would just demolish them again.
One way that people can show solidarity with those suffering from the Israeli state’s policies of ethnic cleansing in the Jordan Valley is to take action against agricultural companies like EDOM and Valley Grown Salads that are profiting from these policies.
The Medjoul dates that Corporate Watch obtained in 2013 were labelled as coming from an address in the Galilee in Israel, Kibbutz Afikim, the head office of EDOM Fruits, despite the fact that the packaging was found in Tomer.
Not only does this kind of mislabelling go against the the call for a distinction to be made between settlement and Palestinian produce – it goes one step further by not even acknowledging that the product is grown in the West Bank. The British Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) advice regarding labelling of settlement produce, published in December 2009, is clear about the illegality of this practice:
“The Government considers that traders would be misleading consumers, and would therefore almost be certainly committing an offence, if they were to declare produce from the OPT (including from the West Bank) as ‘Produce of Israel’. This would apply irrespective of whether the produce was from a Palestinian producer or from an Israeli settlement in the OPT. This is because the area does not fall within the internationally recognised borders of the state of Israel.” (to read the full advice from DEFRA see here).
EDOM Fruits: Kibbutz Afikim, P.O. BOX 104, Zip code 15148, Israel, Tel: +972 (0) 4 6754908, Fax: +972 (0) 4 6754869
EDOM UK, Toyota House, 65 Yigal Alon St., Tel Aviv 67443, Israel Tel: +972-3-6335333 Fax: +972-3-6335340
Valley Grown Salads Nazelow Nursery, Sedge Green Road, Roydon, Essex, CM19 5JS
Tel : + 44 (0) 1992 445000
Fax : + 44 (0) 1992 469519
Sales : Clive Lewis (Sales Director)
Direct 01992 708504 e-mail : Clive@v-g-s.co.uk
Sales Assistant : Onofrio Nicastro
Direct 01992 708507 e-mail: email@example.com
Transport : Joe Russo (Transport Manager)
Direct 01992 708501 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Technical : Giovanni Sapia
Direct 01992 708509 e-mail: email@example.com
Valley Grown Nursery (owned by Valley Grown Salads), Paynes Lanes, Nazeing, Essex EN9 2EX
Gary Taylor (Nursery Managing Director)
Tel. 01992 461093 Fax 01992 461816
e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Glinwell PLC, Smallford Nurseries, Hatfield Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL4 0HL. Phone 01727 822589
For our previous articles about EDOM UK and VGS see:
UK company exporting from Jordan Valley settlements
Further information about EDOM UK – signs of more mislabelling
Dear corporation – an open letter to Valley Grown Salads
Why the only way to trade ethically is to divest from Israel
And see EDOM’s profile on the Who Profits? website
and for more information see our chapter on agriculture in our comprehensive BDS Handbook, Targeting Israeli Apartheid