Category Archives: Agriculture

Apartheid in the fields: From occupied Palestine to UK Supermarkets

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Israeli agricultural export companies are profiting from the Israeli colonisation of Palestinian land.

In 2005 a broad coalition of Palestinians made a call for ordinary people all over the world to take action to boycott Israeli goods, companies and state institutions: “We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era.”

This call has inspired a global solidarity movement aimed at targeting Israeli capitalism in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle against oppression. We have compiled articles and interviews with Palestinian agricultural workers and farmers in the West Bank and Gaza, together with information on many of the Israeli exporters and UK supermarkets, as a resource for campaigners seeking to follow this call.

Trading under siege: the dying export industry in the Gaza Strip

Corporate Watch researchers visited the Gaza Strip during November and December 2013 and carried out interviews with farmers in Beit Hanoun, Al Zaytoun, Khuza’a, Al Maghazi and Rafah, as well as with representatives from Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), Palestine Crops and the Gaza Agricultural Co-operative in Beit Lahiya. This is the second of two articles highlighting what their experiences show: that Palestinians in Gaza face significant and diverse difficulties when it comes to farming their land and harvesting and exporting their produce under siege, and that Israel enforces what amounts to a de facto boycott of produce from the Gaza Strip. The first article, about farmers’ experiences of working the land in Gaza, can be found here.

A dependent economy

“The Israeli occupation allows us to export a small quantity of produce, just to show the world that they are nice to the Palestinians, but they are using us. Everything we do is controlled by them”

Saad Ziada, Union of Agricultural Work Committees

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A queue of goods vehicles approaching the Karam Abu Salem goods crossing in the Gaza Strip. Photo by Corporate Watch December 2013

As a result of economic agreements made during the period of the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Palestinian economy as a whole has become totally dependent on Israel. The Paris Protocol, signed in 1994, is an agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which outlines the economic relations between the two in the areas of customs, taxes, labour, agriculture, industry and tourism. In theory the protocol was meant to facilitate the free movement of goods, including agricultural produce, and give Palestinians access to international markets, but in practice it has worked as a basis for consolidating Israeli domination of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Whilst Israel benefits from tax free access to markets in the Occupied Territories, Palestinian exports are strictly controlled by Israel and can only be carried out through Israeli companies, hence benefiting the economy of the occupier.

When it comes to the Gaza Strip, the situation for Palestinians is even worse. Since the tightening of the siege in 2007, Israel has implemented a de facto economic boycott of Gaza, with no industrial goods and a minimal amount of agricultural exports being allowed through the Israeli controlled Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) goods crossing only. The Karni (or Al Montar) crossing, which was established as a main terminal in 1994 to facilitate the transfer of goods between the Gaza Strip and Israel, was closed permanently in 2011 as the siege intensified. Before the closure the crossing had been effectively non-operational since Hamas’ takeover of the Strip in 2007, only running a skeleton service through a conveyor belt transporting gravel and animal feed. The Rafah crossing to Egypt is completely closed for exports from Gaza.

Since 2007 farmers in Gaza have been prohibited from selling their produce to Israel and the West Bank, traditionally their biggest markets. Continue reading

Tesco: the boycott that wasn’t

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The illegal settlement Beqa’ot in the occupied Jordan Valley. Photo by Corporate Watch, February 2013

Earlier this week, the Irish Sun published an article which claimed that Tesco’s Irish stores are to stop stocking fruit grown in Israeli settlements and that the chain’s UK stores will follow suit. In the article a Tesco spokesperson said that the chain currently has one kind of own brand dates which is “grown in Israel, but packed in the West Bank”, and that Tesco “plan to stop using that facility in September”. The news spread quickly amongst Palestine activists on the internet, with many congratulating Tesco’s decision boycott settlement produce. It seems, however, that the victory call was premature. In fact, there is no evidence that Tesco’s policy regarding trade with Israel has changed and campaigners should not become complacent.

Firstly, the changes do not refer to all produce but only to Tesco’s own brand, in this case one line of dates, and when Corporate Watch contacted Tesco for a clarification on practice its press office was less than forthcoming. After several attempts, we finally received a short reply from Alasdair Gee which stated “I’d like to point out that the Irish article is highly misleading. There has been no sourcing policy change. Any sourcing arrangements are purely for commercial reasons”. The statement failed to answer any of the questions we had posed, including whether Tesco will continue to source from the Israeli company Mehadrin, which operates in several settlements in the occupied Jordan Valley, as well as in the Golan. A follow up question regarding this has gone unanswered. As Corporate Watch has previously exposed, Mehadrin frequently mislabels produce from illegal settlements as Israeli. By continuing to trade with Mehadrin Tesco is complicit in aiding the settler economy. Continue reading

Farming under siege: Working the land in Gaza

Corporate Watch researchers visited the Gaza Strip during November and December 2013 and carried out interviews with farmers in Beit Hanoun, Al Zaytoun, Khaza’a, Al Maghazi and Rafah, as well as with representatives from Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), Palestine Crops and the Gaza Agricultural Co-operative in Beit Lahiya. This is the first of two articles highlighting what their experiences show: that Palestinians face significant and diverse difficulties when it comes to farming their land and harvesting and exporting their produce under siege, and that Israel enforces what amounts to a de facto boycott of produce from the Gaza Strip.

The land and the buffer zones

“There is a 300 meter ‘buffer zone’ in our area. It is common that people get shot at directly if they enter it. Within 500 meters people often get shot at. It is unsafe within 1500 metres of the fence”

Saber Al Zaneen from the Beit Hanoun Local Initiative

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The beginning of the buffer zone in Beit Hanoun in the occupied Gaza Strip. Photo by Corporate Watch, November 2013

Since the withdrawal of settlers and the end of a permanent presence of ground troops from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Israel insists that the area is no longer under occupation. However, as well as still controlling Gaza’s air space, coastline and exports, Israel effectively occupies the area commonly referred to as the ‘buffer zone’, located all the way down the strip along the border with Israel. A buffer area has existed in Gaza since the signing of the Oslo accords in 1993, when 50 meters on the Gaza side of the border was designated a no-go area for Palestinians. Since then, Israel has unilaterally expanded this zone on numerous occasions, including to 150 metres during the Intifada in 2000 and to changeable and unclear parameters since 2009. Continue reading

Cargoflora Ltd: Distributor for Agrexco, goes into administration

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Corporate Watch has received documents showing that Cargoflora Ltd has gone into administration. The documents state that “Their company is no longer operating and their affairs are being handled by an administrator”. The company is also listed as “in liquidation” on the Companies House database. Continue reading

Cherriessa: From occupied land to Europe’s markets

During a recent visit to the Jordan Valley, Corporate  Watch found evidence of a company operating from there that we previously haven’t come across.  Cherriessa, trading under the slogan  ‘From Farm to Market’ is a family owned business which claims to sort, package and export vegetables from Israel to Europe. According to Cherriessa Ltd’s web-site, the company was founded in 2009 to ‘address the developing and growth of ‘The Saada Family Modern Farm’. The Saada Farm was founded in 1989 and exported their produce through Carmel Agrexco.

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Cherriessa labels aimed for the European market obtained in the occupied Jordan Valley.

Continue reading

BDS Victory: EDOM’s Chairman promises to resign and divest shares

Jimmy Russo, the Company Chairman of EDOM, has told Corporate Watch that he plans to “resign” from his chairmanship and “actively seek to sell” his 20% shareholding in the Israeli company. His announcement was in reply to questions about new evidence found by Corporate Watch that EDOM UK, the Israeli company (despite the misleading name), is packaging cherry tomatoes in the Israeli settlement of Beit Ha’arava in the occupied Jordan Valley.

EDOM branded products are sold in Sainsburys stores in the UK

EDOM UK cherry tomatoes acquired from a packing house in the illegal settlement of Beit Ha'arava - Photo taken by Corporate Watch researchers February 2013

EDOM UK cherry tomatoes acquired from a packing house in the illegal settlement of Beit Ha’arava – Photo taken by Corporate Watch researchers February 2013

Packing house being used to package EDOM UK cherry tomatoes - the signs on the outside say Agrexco and Hadiklaim - photo taken by Corporate Watch 4th January 2013

Packing house being used to package EDOM UK cherry tomatoes – the signs on the outside say Agrexco and Hadiklaim – photo taken by Corporate Watch 4th January 2013

Back in 2010 Corporate Watch urged Russo to divest his shares. We wrote:

“To continue to maintain shares in EDOM is to ignore the suffering of those who have lived their entire lives under Israeli apartheid and occupation. The only way to remain ethical in this context is to divest.”

Russo, who is also the director of British company Valley Grown Salads (VGS), made the following “commitments” on 7th February 2013:

“1. I will confirm that I will resign as [EDOM] company chairman with immediate effect as I do not want my company, VGS receiving this constant harassment every year and being involved in political situations which are totally out of my control.

2. I will actively seek to sell my 20% stake holding in the company as the aggravation for no reward is not worth continuing with.”

Russo confirms that VGS will not source goods from the West Bank in the future but says that the company will continue sourcing from EDOM and other companies in Israel.

Russo also pledged to answer questions put to VGS by Corporate Watch and other media outlets.

Corporate Watch has contacted EDOM but has not received a reply. Continue reading

“Everything changes apart from the money”: Conditions for settlement workers in the Jordan Valley – January 2013 (Part One)

On February 9th a coalition of civil society groups have called for an international day of action against Israeli agricultural companies in line with the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) 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.

The reverse of an ID card which Palestinians must apply to the Israeli Administration for before working in some Jordan Valley settlements

The reverse of an ID card which Palestinians must apply to the Israeli Administration for before working in some Jordan Valley settlements

Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements have been entitled to the Israeli minimum wage since an Israeli Supreme Court ruling in 2007 (see here). In 2010 Corporate Watch conducted over 40 interviews with settlement workers showing that Palestinians are consistently paid as little as half the minimum wage.

The current hourly minimum wage is 23.12, NIS (New Israeli Shekels). The equivalent of 184.96 NIS for an eight hour working day, having risen from 20.7 NIS in 2009. An Israeli government website advises that workers are also entitled to 14 days paid holiday and must receive a written contract and payslips from their employer (see here). However, for Palestinian workers on Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley these conditions are an impossible dream. Continue reading

Mislabelled Morrisons own brand packaging found in illegal Israeli settlement Tomer

Labels manufactured for packaging Morrisons own brand Medjoul dates in the illegal Israeli settlement of Tomer

Labels manufactured for packaging Morrisons own brand Medjoul dates found in the illegal Israeli settlement of Tomer

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.

In January 2013 Corporate Watch obtained labels for Morrisons own brand Medjoul dates from the Israeli settlement of Tomer in the occupied Jordan Valley. The labels were for produce with an expiry date in December 2012 and the store has confirmed that they were produced for dates exported during the last Ramadan season. The exporter was the Israeli date growers cooperative Hadiklaim (see here). Continue reading

Sainsburys stocking products supplied by exporter from Israeli settlements

Mangoes supplied by EDOM in Sainsburys, UK

Mangoes supplied by EDOM in Sainsburys, UK

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 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.

We have received this photo from BDS campaigners showing that EDOM products are stocked in Sainsburys stores in the UK

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.

For more information on EDOM click here