Tag Archives: EDOM

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.

An insider’s account of the Sainsbury’s AGM

Sainsbury's - Taste the Indifference

Sainsbury’s – Taste the Indifference

Corporate Watch were inside the Sainsbury’s AGM yesterday. Here’s an account of what happened:

Campaigners protesting outside the Sainsbury’s AGM at the QE2 conference centre in Westminster yesterday called for the company to cease working with companies profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Indifference’ campaign has been pressuring the company for almost two years, calling on them to follow the lead of the Cooperative Group and cease trading with companies operating in Israel’s settlements. Taste the Indifference has been holding monthly days of action where groups across the UK picket Sainsbury’s branches or occupy stores.

On the morning of the AGM, Corporate Watch had published an ‘open letter’ to Sainsbury’s shareholders.

The AGM saw Mike Coupe replace Justin King as Sainsbury’s CEO. The ‘Taste the Indifference’ campaign has written a letter to Mike Coupe signed by representatives of Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (JBIG), the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Boycott Israel Network, and the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions calling for the company to cease trading with companies that operate in the settlements. The letter is also signed by several Members of Parliament and the European Parliament, as well as Israeli historian Ilan Pappe.

Before the AGM, Sainsbury’s Company Secretary Mike Fallowfield came outside to accept a petition from protesters. 6,500 signatures have been collected in support of the aims of the campaign, as well as 2000 postcards.

The AGM began at 10.30. Outgoing CEO Justin King spoke enthusiastically about the setting up of more Sainsbury’s stores and the expansion of existing ones. He also said “Our values are a unique point of difference”. However, many of the shareholders present questioned these values.

Several people had purchased shares in order to tell the board that they did not want Sainsbury’s to expand in their area. One woman from the village of Southam said that local people did not want a new Sainsbury’s store, as there was already a large supermarket in the village, and pledged to boycott it should it open. Another group from Bristol was campaigning against the building of a Sainsbury’s on the site of a local war memorial.

Three shareholders asked questions to the board about Palestine. The first asked:

“The governments of 17 members of the European Union, including the UK, have published warnings urging their citizens to refrain from engaging in business, economic activity and investment in settlements or bodies connected to the illegal Israeli settlements. These governments state that business relations with entities operating in settlements are inherently risky, from an economic, reputational and human rights perspective.

“In the UK, the Secretary of State for Commonwealth and Foreign Affairs has made it clear that the British Government expects British companies to treat the risk of contributing to gross human rights abuses through their operations as an issue of legal compliance, and to positively adopt policies to identify, monitor and prevent risks to human rights.

“The Base Code of the Ethical Trading Initiative, of which Sainsbury’s is a full member, also states that retailers must respect basic rights in their supply chain. What steps, therefore, does Sainsbury’s intend to take to comply with these government guidelines with respect to its trade with companies that operate in illegal Israeli settlements?”

David Tyler, non-executive director replied for the Sainsbury’s board:

“We are well aware of this issue, we monitor and audit with regard to the companies in our supply chain. We can’t find any evidence that those companies have done anything wrong. I think you are asking a wider question for us to boycott the products of any company sourcing from the settlements. We do not source from any company sourcing from settlements in the West Bank in our food and non-food products.”

However, Another activist shareholder pointed out that Sainsbury’s stocked Sodastream products and that Sodastream have their main manufacturing facility in the settlement of Mishor Adumim in the West Bank. The board replied that Sainsbury’s did not source own brand products from settlements but that Sodastream products would simply have to be labelled as such if they were manufactured in a settlement. Apparently, Sodastream has promised that their labelling policy has changed and that its products will be labelled as such in the future.

A third shareholder asked: “A recent report by Israeli research group Who Profits? shows that Sainsbury’s suppliers such as Mehadrin and Edom are deeply involved Israel’s policy of forcibly displacing Palestinian farmers from their land and constructing settlements on occupied land in violation of international law.

“The Who Profits? report also documents how these companies routinely lie about the origin of their produce and market products from illegal settlements as ‘Made in Israel’.

“How can you trust Israeli companies such as Mehadrin to act in ways that allows Sainsbury’s to live up to its promises about behaving in an ethical way? Given the growing body of evidence showing that they employ routine deception, what assessment has Sainsbury’s made about whether its Israeli suppliers are honest about the true origin of their produce?”

At the end of the AGM the Sainsbury’s board was inundated with more questions from shareholders about the ethics of their business.

Sainsbury’s – stop sourcing from occupation profiteers

Sainsbury’s claims that they have no evidence that there is wrongdoing within Sainsbury’s supply chains but Corporate Watch and others have presented ample evidence that Arava, Edom and Mehadrin have a track record of sourcing from settlements where child labour is employed and workers are paid less than the Israeli minimum wage.

In our open letter to Sainsbury’s, published yesterday, we argued: “It is not enough for Sainsbury’s to claim that they do not source goods from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, they should cease sourcing from companies that are profiting from the seizure of Palestinian land and a captive workforce living under occupation. By sourcing products from Arava, Mehadrin and Edom, Sainsbury’s is supporting the settler economy and acting against the wishes of the Palestinian people. We are calling on Sainsbury’s to follow the lead of the Cooperative Supermarket and refuse to buy products from these companies.

The ‘Taste the Indifference’ campaign made a press statement, which you can read here.

To find out how to oppose supermarket developments in your area see Corporate Watch’s ‘What’s Wrong With Supermarkets?’ and our campaign guide to opposing supermarket developments, ‘Checkout Chuckout’. To find out how to research developments in your area see our new do-it-yourself handbook for ‘Investigating Companies’.

Open letter to Sainsbury’s shareholders

Corporate Watch urges you to pressure the Sainsbury’s management to listen to the call from Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, to boycott Israeli goods and not to source goods from companies profiting from human rights abuses against Palestinians by operating in Israeli settlements.

In 2005 hundreds of civil society organisations in Palestine called on international civil society to boycott Israeli goods and Israeli companies until the Israeli state’s crimes against Palestinians end. Since then the boycott movement has grown into a powerful global force, which has the capacity to seriously challenge the Israeli state’s attempts to dispossess the people of Palestine from their land.

In 2012 the Cooperative Supermarket became the first major UK retailer to announce that it would not trade with any company that operates in Israel’s illegal settlements.

In September 2013 Sainsbury’s confirmed to Corporate Watch that it sources its goods from several Israeli companies that operate in the settlements: Arava, Mehadrin and Edom.

We are calling on you to help us to convince Sainsbury’s to follow the Cooperative Group’s lead and to stop sourcing from these companies.

Working for poverty wages on land stolen from their families

Israeli agricultural companies operate on land which has been taken from Palestinians by force. Communities, whose livelihood has been decimated by the occupation, have no option but to work for below the minimum wage on land which, in many cases, previously belonged to their families.

Mehadrin source their produce from the Israeli settlement of Beqa’ot. One worker from Beqa’ot told Corporate Watch: “Before the occupation in 1967 Libqya [The Arabic name for the area where Beqa'ot is now situated] was owned by Palestinians who used it for planting crops and raising animals. All of the families around here owned land in Libqya.

“I remember when my mother passed Libqya when I was young she told us how she used to play there with her brothers and sisters. Our family owned 70 dunums of land there.

“This reality is too painful. When I was older I tried to reach the land my mother told me about. But a settler told me I was forbidden to go there”

Paid under the minimum wage

These Israeli companies consistently underpay their workers. Palestinian workers in Israeli settlements have been entitled to the Israeli minimum wage since an Israeli Supreme Court ruling in 2007 (see here). 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 20.70 NIS in 2009. However, for Palestinian workers on Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley these conditions seem an impossible dream.

In 2010 and 2013 Corporate Watch conducted interviews with settlement workers showing that Palestinians are consistently paid as little as half the minimum wage. Many of our interviewees also reported that children under the age of 16 were employed on the settlements.

The table below outlines our 2013 findings:

Name of settlement Wages reportedly paid Wages paid are below the minimum wage Companies sourcing goods from the settlement Child labour reported Workers complained that they were not allowed to unionise
Beit Ha’arava 65-70 New Israeli Shekels (NIS) Yes Arava, Edom Yes Yes
Beqa’ot 82 NIS (minus 12 NIS deducted for transport) Yes Mehadrin Tnuport (MTEX), Carmel Agrexco, STM Agricultural Exports Yes
Na’ama 65-80NIS Yes Viva, Carmel Agrexco Yes
Kalia Yes Carmel Agrexco
Tomer 70 NIS Yes Edom, Hadiklaim, Agrexco Yes Yes
Massua 80 NIS Yes Mehadrin Tnuport (Mtex) Yes
Vered Yeriho 70 NIS Yes Carmel Agrexco Yes
Argaman 60 NIS Yes Carmel Agrexco, Ada Yes

Arava, Edom and Mehadrin source their products from many of the above settlements. In doing so they are helping to sustain the settlement economy.

Palestinian workers’ views of the companies working in the settlements

Corporate Watch asked the Palestinian workers on Israeli settlements we met about their opinion of the companies working there. The quotes below are illustrative of their views:

It is important for you to tell people that these settlements are illegal and that we don’t have any choice except to work for them… I think it’s important to boycott Israeli products as the settlements are stealing our land and stealing our water. [If the companies in Tomer were to close down it would be] like a dream, inshallah [God willing], it’s freedom for the Palestinian people.”

Mohammed, worker in Tomer

When the settlement economy is destroyed the settlers will leave. They are only here for business.”

Fadi, worker at Beit Ha’arava

They are working on stolen land, using water that they have stolen from us. If the boycott campaign damages these companies then the settlers will leave our land.”

Fares, worker at Beit Ha’arava

We support the boycott even if we lose our work. We might lose our jobs but we will get back our land. We will be able to work without being treated as slaves.”

Zaid, worker at Beqa’ot

The case of Sodastream

Sainsbury’s stocks Sodastream products for making fizzy drinks at home. Sodastream has its main manufacturing facility in the Israeli settlement industrial area of Mishor Adumim. Mishor Adumim was established on land previously occupied by Palestinian Bedouin. The Bedouin occupants were forcibly evicted and forced to settle in an area close to the Jerusalem Municipal rubbish dump. In 2013 Corporate Watch interviewed several people from this community. Here is what one of them said about Sodastream:

“We are not allowed to go near them [the factories]. They took our livelihood to build them and we got evacuated for them to build their factories. After they built them there were no resources to live from for us. The gains are nothing compared to what was lost. They destroyed our lives and then gave a few people a job. It is nothing”.

Sainsbury’s – stop sourcing from occupation profiteers

It is not enough for Sainsbury’s to claim that they do not source goods from Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, they should cease sourcing from companies that are profiting from the seizure of Palestinian land and a captive workforce living under occupation. By sourcing products from Arava, Mehadrin, Sodastream and Edom, Sainsbury’s is supporting the settler economy and acting against the wishes of the Palestinian people. We are calling on Sainsbury’s to follow the lead of the Cooperative Supermarket and refuse to buy products from these companies.

This letter has been sent to Sainsbury’s head office

Poverty wages and child labour in the settlement of Beit Ha’Arava: Conditions for settlement workers in the Jordan Valley – Part two

The gates of Beit Ha'Arava settlement, closed to Palestinians except settlement workers - photo taken by Corporate Watch, January 2013

The gates of Beit Ha’Arava settlement, closed to Palestinians except settlement workers – photo taken by Corporate Watch, January 2013

During January and February 2013 Corporate Watch conducted interviews with Palestinians who work in the illegal Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley. Part one of our findings can be viewed here.

We met Fares*, Younes* and Jammal* near the Northern West Bank town of Tammoun in February 2013. Fares and Jammal were 23 years old at the time and Younes was 20. They had been working as agricultural labourers in the Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley settlements for between nine and seven years. All three workerd in the settlement of Beit Ha’Arava, close to the Dead Sea in the Southern Jordan Valley. According to our interviewees Beit Ha’Arava used to supply fresh produce to Carmel Agrexco before its liquidation in 2010, now the settlement grow the majority of its produce for the Arava and Edom export companies. 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

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

 

EDOM: Still sourcing products from Tomer settlement

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.

Corporate Watch 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.

Edom packaging found in the illegal settlement of Tomer

Edom packaging found in the illegal settlement of Tomer

Continue reading

Dear corporation: Corporate Watch and the Soil Association

by Tom Anderson – Taken from Corporate Watch’s latest magazine ‘The rules of engagement

In 2008 Corporate Watch decided to begin writing to companies with accusations levelled at them by grassroots campaigners, sometimes entering into lengthy discussions with them. Many of these communications were published as open letters on the Corporate Watch website, under the header Dear Corporation, along with the companies’ responses. Continue reading

Why the only way to trade ethically is to divest from Israel – an update on EDOM and Valley Grown Salads

EDOM signage on packing house in Tomer

After Corporate Watch sent an open letter to Valley Grown Salads (VGS), which has a 20% share in the Israeli company EDOM UK, we were immediately contacted by Jimmy Russo – the company’s director who is also the chairman of EDOM. Claiming that we had got our facts wrong, he was eager to dispute our claim that EDOM had been seen packing vegetables in the illegal settlement of Tomer in the Jordan Valley. Expressing concern that his company could become a ‘target’ as a result of any settlement connections, he emphasised that VGS would not trade with growers who used child labour or breached labour regulations and indicated that EDOM and VGS would not trade with the settlements in the future. Through written correspondence and a number of phone calls we have since attempted to get to the truth about EDOM’s business in the settlements and inside Israel, asking Russo to explain the various pieces of evidence that point to exports from Tomer. Continue reading

Dear Corporation – An Open Letter to Valley Grown Salads

UPDATE (12/05/10) – Valley Grown Salads and EDOM have replied to this letter claiming that the packing house in Tomer belongs not to them but to a grower that they have worked with in the past. They say that this grower is not part of their ‘supply base’ any more although they have  ‘purchased from him’ on one occassion this season. EDOM claim that they have instructed the grower to take down the EDOM sign at the packing house in Tomer.

More updates soon.

An open Letter to Valley Grown Salads (www.v-g-s.co.uk)

Truck marked EDOM UK in Tomer

To Whom it may Concern

I am writing to you from Corporate Watch (www.corporatewatch.org). Corporate Watch has, recently, been undertaking research in Palestine and has noted, with concern, that EDOM UK, an Israeli company in which your company holds a 20% share, operate a packing house in the illegal settlement of Tomer (pictures at http://corporateoccupation.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/uk-company-exporting-from-jordan-valley-settlements/). Continue reading