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Israel and Palestine

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Pro-Palestine Protesters Seek to Shut Down Imports of Israeli Produce

February 10th 2013

Jaffa Israeli oranges

Protesters in the United Kingdom joined comrades in Europe and the Mideast as they demanded boycotts of Israeli produce and other food products. Nationwide protests in the UK were held on February 10 at some 35 locations of Sainsbury's, a national supermarket chain, according to various pro-Palestine websites. Protesters called on the British supermarket chain to end its trade with "companies accused of operating in illegal Israel settlements and mislabelling goods." A news release from a pressure group, War on Want, called on Sainsbury's to " stop trading with companies profiting from the occupation."

War on Want also called for the British government to ban trade with companies operating in Israeli settlements. The group warned that the British government’s policy of asking retailers to label products from settlements is not working and does not go far enough to tackle the issue.

The group claims that Sainsbury's does business with the Israeli firms EDOM and Mehadrin. According to War on Want, both companies have faced recent accusations of operations in illegal Israeli settlements and alleged to be mislabelling settlement produce as 'Made in Israel'. Mehadrin is a distributor of 'Jaffa' brand of citrus fruit, and operates subsidiaries and warehouses in the UK, US and Sweden.

War on Want points out that a Sainsbury's competitor, the Co-Operative Group of the UK, already refuses to trade with four Israeli firms profiting from the so-called "occupation", including Mehadrin. The Co-Operative Group in the UK no longer does business with Mehadrin, Agrexco, Arava and Adafresh. In addition, Karsten Farms of South Africa, which is  backed by one of South Africa's primary finance bodies, the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), has severed its relations with the Israeli cooperative, Hadiklaim, and will not enter into any future relations with any Israeli entity "complicit in the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine," according to the International Middle East Media Centre.

The UK government, however, insists that its current policy of labeling settlement produce is sufficient. In 2012, Minister Alastair Burt dismissed demands for a ban on trade with Israel's settlements in the occupied territories. In response to a question from Former Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw, Minister Burt confirmed "the policy of successive UK Governments has been not to ban the import of settlement produce, but to support the policy of voluntary labelling to ensure consumers are fully informed."

A large demonstration was held outside Mehadrin’s Swiss distribution center on February 10, and at a fresh-produce show in Germany. In France, pro-Palestine protesters occupied the customs office in Montpellier and denounced the use of the nearby port of Sète being used to import Israeli produce. Protests were also held at supermarkets in more than 14 other French cities, and in Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

Rafeef Ziadah of War on Want was quoted as saying, “Sainsbury’s should follow the lead of the Co-Op and stop trading with companies profiting from the occupation. This situation is urgent. Israel is continuing to confiscate more land for settlements. Trade with Israeli agricultural companies helps normalise operations in illegal settlements and provides economic aid. It is also time for the UK government to ban all forms of trade and cooperation with Israeli agricultural export companies. The government’s policy of asking retailers to label settlement products is being shown up to be weak and ineffectual.”

Ziadah is a poet and a regular on the university circuits where she is known for her outspoken views on the Israeli-/Palestinian conflict. According to the University College Cork website, the twenty-something activist is a Phd. candidate in Political Science at York University in Toronto. She is a founding member of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) promoting the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestement and Sanctions (BDS) campaign in Canada, and an organizer of the international Israeli Apartheid Week. She is a member of the steering committee of the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott Initiative (PACBI).

Mehadrin is a leading distributor of the Jaffa brand of citrus fruit, and operates subsidiaries and warehouses in the UK, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and the US. Among the products targeted by pro-Palestine activists, sold by Sainsbury's, are Israeli oranges, grapefruit, avocados, strawberries, thyme, tarragon, parsley, coriander, rosemary, passion fruit, sharon fruit, 'Shelly' mangoes, mejdoul dates, lychees, fresh figs, plums, fruit juice, minneola (tangerines), potatoes ('Desiree', 'Vivaldi', 'Rooster', white, baking, baby, salad), sweet potatoes, peppers ('Ramiro'), pickled cucumbers, pickled olives, radishes, ‘Splendid’ flowers, 'Basics' flowers, 'Saveur Mediterranean' hummous, turkey, smoked chicken breast, Rumples party pretzels, Osem croutons, Telma chicken soup mix and soups, feta cheese, Tivall vegetarian food range, 'Food for Thought' dips, table wine (red, white, rose & sparkling), Kiddush wine and Yarden wine and Osem foods.

According to the BoycottIsrael website in the UK, the extensive list includes many products from what the group calls "illegal Israeli settlements", including fresh lemon grass from the West Bank and Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' Pomodorino tomatoes. Sainsbury's stocks Hadiklaim dates labelled 'Made in West Bank' and products from Soda Club, which has an office based in the settlement of Ma'leh Adumin. Pro-Palestine groups object to labelling such products as Made in Israel, for example, since they do not recognize Israeli sovereignty or control of the disputed areas.

Cutting Edge correspondent Martin Barillas is also the editor of Speroforum.com


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