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Joint talk by Brighton Jordan Valley Solidarity and Corporate Watch
As part of Corporate Watch’s efforts to map settlement exports from the Jordan Valley, we visited the illegal Israeli settlement of Ro’i earlier this year.
Established in 1976, Ro’i is a “typical” Jordan Valley settlement in that it has a low population (of less than 150 settlers), but has stolen large areas of land from the indigenous Palestinian population. With its private security, army protection and rows upon rows of greenhouses, Ro’i poses a challenge to the existence of Bedouin communities such as nearby Al Hadidya and Ras-Al Ahmar, who are under constant threat of house demolitions and army harassment aimed at the ethnic cleansing of bedouin from the area. The Israeli’s described these communities as a “security threat” to the settlers.
Al Hadidya is located just next to Ro’i, which was partially built on their land, and inhabitants have to more or less drive through the the outskirts of the settlement in order to reach their home. Any company trading from Ro’i, or importing their produce, are directly responsible for the very real possibility of Al Hadidya’s forced extinction.
given by Corporate Watch at the Sheffield Anarchist Bookfair:
Almost every morning, between 3 and 4am, hundreds of workers from outside the Jordan Valley, from towns as far away as Nablus and even Jenin, queue at Al Hamra checkpoint, sometimes for hours, to get to work at the Israeli settlements in the valley. Often workers arrive too early, for fear of losing their job if the delays are bad, and sleep in the fields on the other side of the checkpoint.
Palestinian workers on Israeli settlements are routinely paid below minimum wage.
The settler bosses are seldom seen before the more civilised time of 9am.
Workers often encounter repression at Al Hamra checkpoint. Corporate Watch has heard reports and witnessed Palestinians being bodysearched, stripsearched or forced to wear blindfold while soldiers check IDs. Travellers are often subjected to insults and abuse by soldiers at Al Hamra.
Corporate Watch paid a visit to Agrexco’s packing house on the land of the illegal settlement of Kibbutz Kalia, on the Northern Coast of the Dead Sea, during April 2010. The packing house is next to fields of date palms. Thai migrant workers could be seen tending to the palms from cherypickers. Inside the packing house herbs were being packed into boxes marked ‘Carmel ECOFRESH: Produce of Kibbutz Kalia, USA’. ECOFRESH is one of Agrexco’s newer brands which is supposed to represent better food quality (see, for example, http://www.thegrocer.co.uk/articles.aspx?page=articles&ID=52941). Workers inside told us that the herbs were being exported to the US. Read the rest of this entry »
Despite the fact that there is -as demonstrated by this web-site- clearly a lot of more work to be done for people campaigning for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel, a recent visit to the Jordan Valley confirmed that there are plenty of reasons for the BDS movement to take stock of its successes. Read the rest of this entry »
Netiv Hagdud and Gilgal are two illegal Israeli settlements set back from Route 90 South of Fasayil and Tomer in the occupied Jordan Valley. Between the two settlements is a fenced agricultural area which exports fruit and vegetables internationally. Produce in Waitrose has previously been seen bearing the label ‘Netiv Hagdud’. In March Corporate Watch paid the two settlements a visit. Read the rest of this entry »
Tomer is an illegal Israeli settlement of nearly 300 people close to the Palestinian community of Fasayil. It employs Palestinian and Thai workers, the bosses are Israeli. Tomer was established in 1976 on the lands of the people of Fasayil, Al Auja and other nearby Palestinian communities.
Some companies working inside Tomer:
TBP Export - http://www.tbp-export.com – Have a packing house in Tomer. They are, according to their website, an international marketing company for fresh produce set up by two Israeli agricultural companies, Mor-Li and Bar-Mor. Despite basing its packing house on an illegal settlement TBP export boasts that it is certified by EUREPGAP, an international certifier of “good agricultural practice”. They are also approved to British Retail Consortium (BRC) standards, suggesting they are marketing their goods in Britain. The company advertise potatoes, sweet potatoes, strawberries, peppers, herbs and organic products. TBP list many locations where they source their produce, although not the Jordan Valley. TBP does list Beit Shean and the Arava as two of their growing areas, the areas directly North and South of the valley. TBP’s contact address is in Ein Vered near Israel’s South Coast. TBP use the brandname ‘Rimon’, Corporate Watchers saw a truck emblazoned with this logo picking up produce from Tomer.
Carmel Agrexco – http://www.agrexco.co.il – Agrexco has several packing houses in Tomer and several Agrexco vans could be seen visiting the settlement every day. Agrexco are the largest agricultural company operating in the Jordan Valley and use the brandnames Carmel, Jaffa, Biotop, Coral, Jordan Plains, Alesia and Ecofresh. Agrexco subsidiaries include Agrexco (France), Agrexco (US), Carmexco (Italy), Eclectic, Carmel Cor, LACHS, Dalia (Germany). Agrexco have a regional office in the occupied Jordan Valley, at the Arovot HaYarden Regional Council, and are building a new refrigeration centre there. The company operates packing houses in most of the Jordan Valley settlements including Netiv Hagdud, Ro’i, Argaman, Mehola and Bet HaArava .
There has been a long running direct action campaign against Carmel Agreco in the UK (See http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/actions/2008/carmelagrexco/). Activists have repeatedly shut down Agrexco’s depot in Hayes, Middlesex, with blockades and occuptions. In 2006 a case against campaigners who had blockaded the company’s premises was dropped after the defendants had obtained disclosure from the company of its business in the occupied territories. The managing director, Amos Orr, stated in court that 60-70% of all produce from the West Bank was exported through Agrexco.
Carmel’s site boasts that they have branches in London, Frankfurt, Paris, Rotterdam, New York, Zurich, Vienna, Madrid and Milan. Several interviews with Carmel workers in the Jordan Valley by Corporate Watch and the Brighton-Tubas Friendship and Solidarity Group (www.brightonpalestine.org) have found that workers picking fruit and vegetables for the company in the occupied Jordan Valley are paid 70 – 75 shekels (about 13 pounds), less than half the Israeli minimum wage.
Nirav – http://www.nirav.co.il – Marketing company for greenhouses, sheds etc.
EDOM – http://www.edom.co.il – A partially British owned company. More info at http://corporateoccupation.wordpress.com/2010/04/08/further-information-about-edom-uk-signs-of-more-mislabelling/. Read the rest of this entry »
Arava – http://www.arv.co.il – Arava Export Growers is the third largest agricultural export company in Israel, with export sales of about € 60 million. It is 50% owned by B. Gaon Holdings and 50% by farmers in the Arava region of Israel. Arava advertise that their products comply to organic EUREGAP and British Retail Consortium Standards, suggesting a focus on exports to Europe. Arava have a sales office in the UK run by Mill Associates. Arava have subsidiaries in the US and Holland with head offices in New York and Bleiswijk respectively.
Despite increased publicity regarding the labelling of Israeli settlement produce, and the recent DEFRA guidance on the matter which states that produce from the settlements should be labelled as such, it only took us a few minutes inside the illegal Jordan Valley settlement of Mehola to find herbs bound for a British company being mislabelled. Herbs bearing the logo of Fresh Direct, who have their head office in Oxfordshire, were spotted inside the Halpert Moshe ‘fresh herbs’ packing house which operates under the Carmel Agrexco banner. At this location herbs being prepared came with a joint Fresh Direct/Carmel Agrexco label which clearly states the product as being “Produce of Israel”, despite being packaged in an organic farm on an illegal settlement in the Israeli occupied West Bank. The label we collected was for 70 grams of sage with the text written in English, indicating that the contents were intended for export to Britain. There were also herbs labelled in German (without the Fresh Direct logo) inside the packing house. Read the rest of this entry »
The settlement of Mehola is situated in the Northern Jordan Valley. It is comprised of a gated, fenced residential settlement and an agricultural area. The agricultural area is close to the Palestinian village of Ein al Beida and Palestinian workers, including child workers, work in the fields and packing houses. Workers are paid from 60-80 shekels per day, half the Israeli minimum wage, and have no contracts or health insurance. There have been documented incidents of employers in Mehola falsifying wage slips in order to appear to be paying proper wages. Read the rest of this entry »
Bnei Yehuda settlement was established in 1972 after Israel’s occupation of the Golan heights, it was reportedly set up by workers from Israeli Aircraft Industries (www.iai.co.il). It is on the site of the Syrian area of Scopia which was depopulated when the Israeli military forced most of the Syrian residents of the Golan Heights out of their homes. It now has 1036 residents.
Bnei Yehuda boasts a Carmel Agrexco packing house. Agrexco are the largest exporter of fresh produce from the settlements to Europe and elsewhere.
On the road leading to Bnei Yehuda a factory bearing the Elbit logo can be seen. The factory appears to be manufacturing aircraft. Elbit operate in the UK and are involved in testing unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) at ParcAberporth in Wales (see http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=3470).
Near the entrance to Bnei Yehuda industrial area is a sign offering free land to people who want to settle, on the expropriated Syrian land, in Bnei Yehuda.
Above is a picture of the construction of a packing house on the land of the regional council of the Jordan Valley settlements. Local Palestinians say that this is to be a new packing house for Carmel Agrexco. Agrexco already run packing houses for fruit and vegetables, bound for export, on dozens of illegal settlements in the occupied Jordan Valley. Read the rest of this entry »
A couple of weeks ago, on 28th January 2010, Corporate Watch wrote an open letter to Cargoflora, a freight company, involved in the distribution of imported flowers to UK supermarkets . The company’s partner, J and E Distributors Ltd, based in the same office as Cargoflora, advertises that it imports flowers from Israel. Read the rest of this entry »
In our last News Update, on 5th January 2010, we published an open letter to multinational fruit exporter Fyffes on the subject of trade with Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Corporate Watch had been supplied with a photo of boxes of dates bearing the Fyffes logo inside a packing house in the settlement of Tomer. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s Valentines Day in a couple of weeks and tonnes of cut flowers from Israel and the Occupied Territories are set to be exported to Europe. Many of these flowers come from the besieged Gaza Strip, a captive market for Israeli companies like Carmel-Agrexco. Israel has eased its siege on Gaza specifically to allow the export of flowers to Europe through Israeli companies. Roughly 450,000 flowers have been passing through the Gaza crossings each week, bound for the UK, Holland and other parts of Europe. Agrexco’s flowers are also sourced from the occupied West Bank. Read the rest of this entry »
The Christmas period is one of the busiest times of the year for date importers. Tonnes of dates are imported into the UK from illegal Israeli agricultural settlements on Palestinian land. Campaigners have been focusing on Israeli companies, such as Carmel Agrexco, importing these dates into the UK but little is known about Fyffes, a transnational company that has also sourced dates from Israeli settlements.
As part of an international day of action against the Languedoc-Rousillon regional council in France, Palestine solidarity campaigners picketed the Maison Languedoc-Rousillon offices in London, Milan, Brussels and Montpelier on 21st November in protest at the council’s plans to build facilities for Carmel-Agrexco in the French harbour of Sete.
Original Aricle at http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=3475
The Carmel Agrexco depot in Hayes, Middlesex, was blockaded for three days (6th – 8th November) by Palestine solidarity campaigners to raise awareness over the continued sale of illegal settlement produce in the UK. Protesters endured freezing temperatures,and violence and aggression from both Carmel staff and the police.
Five protesters were arrested. Link: www.bigcampaign.org/index.php?mact=CGBlog
Agrexco Agricultural Export Company Ltd. markets most of Israel’s exports of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers, some of which are grown in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
In a court case in November of 2004, the General Manager of Agrexco UK at that time, Amos Orr, testified that Agrexco markets 60-70% of the agricultural produce grown in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.
Agrexco is worth half a billion Shekels (nearly £78m) and employs about 500 people. 50% of the company’s shares are owned by the Israeli government, although a ministerial committee last year decided to privatise it . Agrexco’s biggest fresh agricultural produce brand is Carmel. Other brand names include Jaffa and Jordan Plains. The company’s subsidiaries include Agrexco (France), Agrexco (US), Carmexco (Italy), Eclectic, Carmel Cor, LACHS and Dalia (Germany). For more information on Agrexco, see http://www.bigcampaign.org/index.php?page=who_exports_israeli_goods.
British supermarkets account for 60% of Carmel-Agrexco’s total exports. The company supplies Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, Waitrose as well as discounters Lidl and Aldi. Carmel-Agrexco has been the focus of anti-occupation protests and actions. The company’s depot in Swallowfield Way in Hayes, Middlesex, has repeatedly been shut down by protesters
Tesco stores stock a large amount of produce grown in the Occupied Territories and purchased from the Israeli state, including fruit and vegetables from producer Carmel-Agrexco. Israeli products stocked by Tesco include fruit juice, mangoes, avocados, grapes, stonefruit, dates,herbs, pickled cucumbers, Exquisa potatoes, mixed peppers (from Israel and a second country of origin), Barkan wine, Yarden wine, biscuits, cold meat, dips, Osem soups and cakes, snacks by Beigel & Beigel, Telma (soup mixes and cubes, noodles etc) and socks (Tesco’s own brand). Tesco sells products from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, many of which are exported by Carmel Agrexco. The company admitted sourcing ‘a number of products’ from illegal settlements, including avocados, herbs, grapes and stonefruit, such as peaches, from farms in the West Bank and Golan Heights. In 2006 War on Want reported that Tesco sells Beigel and Beigel products sourced from the settlements. Tesco also sells gas cylinders for products made by settlement company Soda Club, and repackages settlement dates from Hadiklaim as Tesco own brand dates. Mehadrin-Tnuport Export Company (MTex) supplies Tesco with settlement citrus fruit and there are links between Tesco and the Arava settlement company. In October 2007, a group of campaigners from the Brighton Tubas Friendship and Solidarity Group entered Tomer settlement in the occupied Jordan Valley and photographed medjoul dates, packaged by Carmel Agrexco, labelled ‘Made in Israel’ and marked as bound for Tesco stores. Read the rest of this entry »
As Palestine solidarity campaigners continue to hold protests and take direct action against Israeli exporter Carmel-Agrexco, the Israeli government tries to ‘confuse’ the boycott campaign against the company by allowing it to export flowers grown in Gaza in a Valentine-special PR exercise.
On 12th February, two days prior to Valentine’s Day, the Israeli army allowed 25,000 carnation flowers grown by Palestinian growers in the Gaza Strip to cross the border into Israel, through the Kerem Shalom crossing, and be shipped to the Netherlands by Agrexco in time for Valentine. According to the Israeli army, the clearance of the carnations – the first export permitted out of besieged Gaza for more than a year– was in response to a request from the Dutch government, which has apparently been promoting the production of carnations grown in the Gaza Strip. Israeli military spokesman Major Peter Lerner, of the military’s Civil Co-ordination Office, claimed the move was a “goodwill gesture” to the Dutch government, a statement that was later transformed in some media reports to “a goodwill gesture from the Israeli government to the people of Gaza.” Palestinian farmers, however, saw the move merely as “propaganda” and “a publicity stunt”. According to Abdel-Karim Ashour, director of the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee in Gaza, “What happened today is only propaganda. It is nothing. The season is almost finished now.”
Too little, too late
The ‘gesture’ came too late to salvage the carnations crop, most of which had either rotted or been fed to sheep. About 70 percent of Gaza’s carnation crop had already been lost due to the Israeli siege, which had prevented growers from importing seeds and pesticides early enough and from exporting their flowers. The situation worsened further following Israel’s brutal 22-day aerial bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza earlier this year. The losses in flower sales suffered by growers in Gaza, who used to export 37 to 40 million carnations a year, are estimated to have already reached $4 million. Major Peter Lerner clearly stated that there were no plans to allow further exports beyond those for Valentine’s Day. The blockade was not lifted for vegetables or Gaza’s traditionally high-quality strawberries. Israel has not allowed any exports from Gaza since June 2007. Further, the carnations were unlikely to reach Europe in time for Valentine’s Day. By Agrexco’s own admission, the flowers would most probably not have been sold on Valentine. “It’s borderline,” said Ishai Sharon of Agrexco in Aalsmeer, Holland. “But even if they don’t make it in time, they can still be sold to Russia and Eastern Europe for [the International] Women’s Day on 8th March.”
Produce of ….?
According to Agrexco, the Gazan flowers will be sold with the label “Product of Gaza Strip”. However, it is often harder to detect the source of flowers than of fruit, vegetables and herbs. Many Agrexco flowers grown in Israel or the Occupied Territories are sold on or packed in Holland and labelled accordingly. It is widely known now that some of the ‘Israeli’ fresh produce exported through Agrexco is grown in illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. In a court case in November 2004, the general manager of Agrexco UK at that time, Amos Orr, testified that his company markets 60 to 70 percent of the agricultural produce grown in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories. Agrexco Agricultural Export Company Ltd. markets most of Israel’s exports of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers. 50 percent of the company’s shares are owned by the Israeli government and 25 percent by an Israeli settlers cooperative called Tnuva, although a ministerial committee last year decided to privatise it (see here).
The company is worth half a billion Israeli Shekels (approximately £78m) and employs about 500 people. Agrexco’s biggest fresh produce brand is Carmel. Other brand names include Jaffa, Coral and Jordan Plains. The company’s subsidiaries include Agrexco (France), Agrexco (US), Carmexco (Italy), Eclectic, Carmel Cor, LACHS and Dalia (Germany). For more information on Agrexco, see here.
‘We don’t want your bloodstained flowers’
Under the slogan “Don’t flirt with Israeli Apartheid – Boycott Israeli goods”, the Boycott Israeli Goods campaign (BIG) and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) called for a ‘mass picket’ at the Agrexco depot in Hayes, Middlesex, on 7th February, as part of an international week of action against Agrexco. About 70 protesters gathered at the warehouse, surrounded by a massive number of cops, who blockaded the depot since early morning. On 12th Feb, a group of 15 women locked themselves to the gates of Carmel-Agrexco’s depot to stop the delivery of Valentines roses. They were met with heavy force from security and police. Emma Goldman, a member of the London Anarchafeminist Kollective, said: “This Valentine’s Day, women in Palestine will be struggling to piece their society together against the brute force of the occupation. Carmel-Agrexco, a state-owned company, is at the heart of Israel’s colonisation and exploitation of Palestinian land.” On 23th February, a small protest was held at the London headquarters of Apax Partners, a UK-based private equity giant that holds a majority stake in Israeli agricultural co-op Tnuva, which owns 25 percent of Agrexco Agricultural Export Company. Earlier in the morning, an anonymous protester had D-locked the building’s main door, causing some disruption to the baffled employees arriving to work (see here).
The campaign against Carmel-Agrexco in the UK has been growing ever since seven activists blockaded the company’s depot in Hayes in November 2004 for over 11 hours, using metal fencing. The ensuing prosecution of the blockaders failed after campaigners argued that Agrexco was ancillary to Israeli war crimes under the International Criminal Court Act 2001. In September 2005, a Judge ruled that Agrexco (UK) must prove that their business was lawful. Charged with proving that the lawfulness of their business, Carmel-Agrexco withdrew their case. The acquittal of the seven activists before they were able to present their defence, however, meant that the court did not have to rule on the legality of Agrexco-Carmel’s involvement in the supply of produce from illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Since then, dozens of blockades have occurred each year; Carmel’s offices have been subject to extensive damage by protesters; and their depot occupied. Yet, the company has not been willing to take prosecutions against campaigners for fear of having their business practices exposed and questioned in court.
For more on the actions against Carmel Agrexco in the UK over the years, see Indymedia UK’s special topic page.
Original articale at http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=3209
On the second big Gaza solidarity march in London on 10th January, angry protesters smashed the front of a Starbucks store on Kensington High St, near the Israeli embassy, while other activists occupied the Ahava beauty shop in central London.
Other actions in protest at the Israeli massacre in Gaza that month included occupying the offices of the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) in central London, ‘decommissioning’ the ITT/EDO arms factory in Brighton and university occupations across the country calling for divestment. So, who are these companies and why are they being targeted by protesters and campaigners?
Corporate Watch takes a detailed look.
VisionOnTV and Corporate Watch host a video feed of grassroots films about resistance to corporate power. Every month we will showcase one of these films. All films are collected at http://corporatewatch.visionon.tv.
This month we have chosen Boycott Carmel-Agrexco, a short film about the campaign against Carmel-Agrexco. Carmel-Agrexco is an Israeli agricultural export company importing fresh produce into the UK from Israel and Israeli settlements in the West Bank (see http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=3192). The film features interviews with Palestinians working for Carmel-Agrexco and direct actions against the company in the UK. Watch the film here.
Human rights activists shut down the Carmel-Agrexco depot in Hayes, Middlesex, for 12 hours on 28 September, 2008, as part of a week of action called by the Boycott Israeli Goods campaign. Both gates to the depot were blocked, with four protesters locking themselves inside a cage blocking one gate, while another was D-locked to the other. At least 14 trucks were prevented from entering the premises during the day. Read the rest of this entry »
An Israeli ministerial committee has decided that Agrexco Agricultural Export Company Ltd. is to be privatised. The company, which is worth half a billion Shekel (nerly £78m) and employees some 500 people, markets most of Israel’s exports of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers. Agrexco’s biggest fresh agricultural produce brand is Carmel. British supermarkets account for 60% of Carmel-Agrexco’s total exports. Read the rest of this entry »