Gush Shalom presents: Settlement Products Wiki
Settlement Products Wiki - a systematic informational research about businesses in the settlements and their products; businesses that have left the settlements and relocated to within the Green Line; and the misleading tactics with which businesses attempt to cover up and conceal their location in the settlements.
"In recent years the settlers have been portraying themselves as the patrons of the Palestinian workers. Spokespersons for the settlers in the political arena routinely bemoan the fate of the Palestinian workers in the settlements, who might lose their jobs as the result of steps such as marking settlement products in Europe. However, perusing the Orange Pages directory, which is published by the settlers for the purpose of their own internal communications, reveals a picture that is quite the opposite," said Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesperson. The Gush Shalom team of volunteers, which has been working for the last few months on an extensive project to gather and list information about the factories and businesses in the settlements, discovered many businesses that openly proclaim their policy of not employing Arab workers - "the work is performed by Jewish workers only, "Hebrew labor!!!" (exclamation points in the original), "Hebrew labor from A to Z", "Produced by high quality Hebrew labor", "Do you require Hebrew labor? You've come to the right place!", "Reliability, dedication, good service and Hebrew labor", "Gracious service, Hebrew labor from the heart", and also paradoxical statements, such as "Hebrew labor, French speaking". It is obvious that among the target audience in the settlements, a business that employs only Jews and has a policy of excluding Arabs is attractive to potential clients."
In 1996-97, not long after the establishment of Gush Shalom, we publicized information about settlement products, information that was gathered by our activists. In the intervening years that information was copied and disseminated by various groups in the broad Israeli peace movement and abroad, and it was even read from the Knesset podium by Knesset Member Tamar Zandberg from Meretz. Moreover – on several occasions the settlers themselves and their allies, when calling upon their supporters to use settlement products, also used the information that was publicized by Gush Shalom verbatim (including several typos…).
Over the years Gush Shalom made efforts to routinely update the information. For the last few months a team of Gush Shalom activists have been busy systematically updating and greatly expanding the information. In recent years there have been several prominent examples of companies that were located in the settlements (especially in the Barkan industrial zone) and relocated to within the Green Line. Unsurprisingly, such relocations were often connected to the company's efforts to expand its exports, especially to Europe, or the purchasing of a company by an international company – as well as to the situation on the ground, for example, in the course of the second intifada quite a few settlement businesses folded or relocated to within the Green Line. Some of the examples that featured in the media are Barkan Winery, Bagel & Bagel, Yardeni Locks, and Multilock, all of which moved to within the Green Line. They were joined quite recently, literally as our team was at work, by SodaStream, which relocated from Mishor Adumim to the Negev, following an unsuccessful attempt to conduct a PR campaign starring actor Scarlett Johansson. Soon afterwards the cosmetics firm Ahava announced that it was relocating from the Mitspe Shalem settlement to Kibbutz Ein Gedi, within the Green Line. It should be mentioned that the relocation of Ahava apparently is related to its purchase by a Chinese company – which should serve as a message to Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has been attempting to build relations with China as a "counterweight" to the pressures on the part of the European Union.
Other cases which did not attract media attention included Intercosma Cosmetics (Atarot industrial zone to Ashdod); children's furniture company Ikoo Designs (Barkan to Ashdod and Nesher); MBT Biological Laboratories which is owned by pharmaceutical giant Teva, and which quietly relocated from the Atarot industrial zone to Beit Shemesh; and the Delta textile company, which moved its warehouses from the Atarot industrial zone to Caesarea. These companies are joined by the furniture company Bar Chairs/United Systems, which still appears in the Barkan industrial zone directory, but has set up an automatic telephone message notifying of its relocation to Tel-Aviv.
Another prominent case that has not yet been covered in the media is that of the Adanim Tea company, which was established and operated in its first years in the settlement Ofra, the "flagship" of the national-religious ideological settlements. According to the information that the team was able to gather, around 2002 without notifying the media, the company moved from Ofra to Bethlehem-in-the-Galilee, then from there to Upper Nazareth, That was the time of the second intifada, and at that time the company was starting to develop widespread activity in Europe, especially in France and Germany.
Documentation that we found online testifies to the long history of shoe polish company Mavrik Industries, which was founded in the 1930's in Tel-Aviv, became the largest factory of its type in Israel and in the entire Middle East and engulfed 28 competing factories. The company moved to the Mishor Adumim settlement industrial zone – which turned out to be an unlucky business choice that ended in its folding during the second intifada. Similarly, Atlas Sweets, which was one of the leading manufacturers of chewing gum in Israel since the 1970's, relocated to the Atarot industrial zone in East Jerusalem and there faced serious business difficulties when the second intifada broke out. The company ultimately folded and its equipment and brand were purchased by the Mastix company from Beit Shemesh.
Documents from the Companies' Registrar and court rulings tell the story of Abir Textile Industries, Abir Thread Industries, Sabrilon Thread Technology and Hadoron Textile Marketing, which were located in the Barkan industrial zone, became intertwined, conducted intricate power struggles and ultimately nearly all of them went bankrupt and entered into receivership. We can mention information that was uncovered about additional settlement companies that faced bankruptcy, receivership and closure – including Ariye Plast from the Ma'aleh Efraim industrial zone, Mey Tsurim from Rosh Tsurim in Gush Etzion, the Hebron Settlers' Carpentry, and quite a few other companies.
One more significant finding that was made by the Gush Shalom team was that many factories and businesses that are located in settlements try to conceal or obscure their location – especially companies that export to other countries or maintain other international relations. The information on the companies' websites, their advertisements in newspapers and on the packaging of their products, is often incomplete or misleading. Many companies provide two addresses, one in a settlement and one within the Green Line, in a manner that makes it very difficult to ascertain their actual location.
For example, the Frid blanket manufacturing company is located in the Barkan industrial zone. The company publicizes a list of shops all over the country where its products are sold, yet without mentioning the location of the factory where the blankets are made. The same tactic is used by the furniture chain store Beitili, Keter Plastic and additional companies.
The Meshek Zuriel dairy markets products that come in part from the settlement Shadmot Mehola in the Jordan Valley, and part come from plants in the Galilee and the Negev. In most cases there is no transparency and no mention of the source of the product on the package.
Another method of misleading is concealing the source of the product under a "manufacturer's code". For example, General Mills Ltd., the Israeli branch of a large US manufacturer of baked goods, manufactures the brand Pillsbury in the Atarot industrial zone in East Jerusalem. However, the packages on some of its products read: "Produced for General Mills Ltd. Ramle by manufacturer's code SLGL."
A website that is operated by the Ministry of the Economy enables deciphering manufacturer's codes of this type, yet even if the code can be deciphered, it is obvious that there is a huge discrepancy between information that is provided in this manner on a product label and the fundamental commitment of a commercial company to provide the consumer with reliable and transparent information on the products that it markets.
In the case of foods, the team often relied on the location of the rabbinate that issued the kosher certificate for products – reasonably surmising, that the rabbinate which issues the certificate for a product is that in the location or the area where the product was manufactured. Thus, for example, a container of hummus produced by Achva may provide an address in Nes Tsiona, but the kashrut certificate from the Ariel Rabbinate testifies to the location of the factory where the hummus was manufactured.
The most blatant deception that our team found has to do with dates – especially Medjool dates, which are a major economic branch in the Jordan Valley settlements and a large portion of them are designated for export. For example, the Jordan River company markets dates from the Jordan Valley in carton boxes on which there is no printing in Hebrew nor any mention of the origin of the dates. The writing on the boxes of dates is in English, sometimes in other European languages (German, French, Spanish, Italian) and sometimes also in Arabic. Some of the Jordan River boxes bear "Orientalist" illustrations of camel-riders against the background of an exotic city with mosque minarets, which might create the impression for a superficial observer that they are an Arab product. However, when marketed in Israel, a Hebrew-language sticker is added to the packages that notes the origin of the dates as the Jordan Valley, the name of the packaging plant (Gilgal, Tomer, etc.) and the rabbinate that certified kashrut – the Jordan Valley Rabbinate.
As opposed to the examples above, we should note the transparency policy of the Sasson Levinsky company, which markets assorted dried fruits, some of which are produced at its plant in Kiryat Gat and some at the packaging plant in the settlement Gilgal in the Jordan Valley. In this case the origin of the fruit is clearly noted on each and every package, in a manner that allows – at least for a knowledgeable consumer who checks labels – ascertaining the source of the product before purchasing.
It should be stressed that while compiling the information, the Gush Shalom team made no distinction between "ideological settlements" and "quality of life settlements", nor between "settlement blocs" and "isolated settlements", etc. The definition, on the basis of which it was decided which factories and businesses would be included in this project, was clear and unequivocal: a settlement is any civilian community that is designated for the residence of Israeli citizens in the territories that were occupied by the IDF in June 1967 and which the State of Israel continues to hold to the present day. A settler is any person residing in such a settlement. And especially relevant for the information that appears here – an industrial zone that is designated for Israeli entrepreneurs and business people and which was established in the occupied territories is a settlement industrial zone.
"Sometimes we are asked, 'Why do you hate the settlers?' The answer is unequivocal: we do not hate the settlers," said Gush Shalom spokesperson Adam Keller. "The settlers are human beings just like us and Israeli citizens just like us. They love their families no less that we do ours. Like most human beings, the settlers are fully and honestly convinced that their actions and lifestyle are right and just. We do not hate the settlers. We do consider them to be people who are performing an extremely significant political act by residing in occupied territory. In our view, that action is extremely damaging and dangerous to the future of all of us (and especially to the future of the settlers themselves!). If the settlers cease and desist from this political act, then from that moment on we will have no reason to argue with them or to confront them."
Keller added: "We consider the 'Boycott Law' that was legislated in 2011 and which regrettably was ratified by the judges of the High Court of Justice, to be an unfair law and a grave violation of the freedom of speech of Israeli citizens. That law has created a situation in the State of Israel whereby any boycott by anyone against anyone else is permitted, yet only calling for a boycott of settlement products is prohibited. Israeli citizens who are religious Jews are permitted to call for a boycott of non-kosher restaurants. Social justice movements can call for boycotting products that are exorbitantly priced. Vegetarians can call for boycotting animal products. Even the extreme right wing is allowed to call for a boycott against the Arab citizens. A settler organization called The Samaria Settlers' Committee recently did just that, including publicizing a detailed list of the names and addresses of Arab-owned shops which the organization called to boycott. We consider this legal and public situation to be blatantly unfair and discriminatory. However, considering this situation, Gush Shalom clarifies, for the avoidance of all doubt, that the action of gathering information about factories and businesses in settlements and publicizing same through the Settlement Products Wiki is by no means an intention to call for the boycotting of settlement products. The purpose of gathering and publicizing the information is to provide the most reliable and accurate consumer information that we were able to gather, in order to enable consumers – each and every one individually – to make wise and informed decisions according to their personal considerations.
Concerning the sources of the information that was gathered Keller stated: "In the course of our work we greatly relied on material that has been previously compiled and publicized by other peace groups, especially the project Who Profits from the Occupation?, as well as publications of Peace Now. In addition, we located much information that is publicized by the settlers themselves – websites and advertisements of various companies, lists of businesses that are publicized by the managements of the settlement industrial zones, and two online directories that are specifically for the settlements – Dapei Katom (The Orange Pages) and The Business Community of Samaria, Ariel, the Jordan Valley, Binyamin". We relied additionally on Dunsguide Dun and Bradstreet's online directory of companies and the portal Takdin which comprises an extensive collection of court rulings in civil proceedings, including those in which settlement companies are involved. More than once, details were found in these two resources that the companies themselves chose not to reveal in their websites and in the information that they provide to the media. For the purpose of publishing the information in a systematic and easy to use format, we used Wikipedia software which is freely available online."
"For the information of Justice Minister Shaked, I wish to emphasize that this was a wholly voluntary project by activists of an NGO with limited means and resources and which does not receive any government funding – neither from the government of Israel nor from any foreign government." Keller concluded, "Although we made immense efforts to avoid mistakes, it may be found that the information that we publicized is not devoid of such. In the event that any mistakes are found, they were done inadvertently and without malice. Anyone who wishes to correct mistakes, to add details and/or to share new information is welcome to contact us. In the event that such new information is found to be accurate, we undertake to add any new and relevant information, in order to enable each and every user to make independent and informed decisions."
For further information: Adam Keller, firstname.lastname@example.org