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.
Fyffes is one of the world’s largest importers of fruits into Europe. It has an annual turnover of 500 million euros and its brand name is ubiquitous in supermarkets, wholesalers and local markets across the UK. In October 2007, a group of British activists from the Brighton-Tubas Friendship and Solidarity Group entered the illegal settlement of Tomer. They took photos of boxes inside a packing house where Palestinians were working. Inside the packing house were dates being packed into boxes bearing the Fyffes logo.
The Tomer settlement: A captive workforce
The Tomer settlement is located in the Jordan valley, an area of the West Bank that Israel is seeking to annex illegally (see this Corporate Watch article for more details). Palestinian workers in Tomer come from nearby villages, such as Fasayil and Al-Jiftlik. Palestinians are prohibited by Israeli military restrictions from building on or cultivating the majority of land in these villages and the local population is starved of essential services and deprived of the means to make a living. The workforce inside Tomer consists of Palestinians employed, through Palestinian middlemen, by Israeli state-owned agricultural export company Carmel-Agrexco and other companies (see this Corporate Watch briefing for more on Carmel-Agrexco). Dear
Corporation: An open letter to Fyffes
Dear Fyffers, Corporate Watch has been made aware that Fyffes Daglet Nour dates have been sourced from illegal Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley. We enclose a photo, taken by campaigners, which shows boxes of dates displaying the Fyffes logo inside the packing house of Tomer settlement in the Israeli-occupied Jordan Valley. Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and their construction is a breach of the English International Criminal Court Act. The British government’s policy clearly states that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) deems Israeli settlements unlawful (see FCO website). Israeli settlements in the Jordan valley, where Tomer is situated, are built on land stolen from the Palestinians. Between 95 and 98% of the land in the valley is controlled either by Israeli settlers or the military. There are 30 Israeli settlements and 9 settler outposts in the valley, housing 9,000 Israeli settlers. The settlements’ main purpose is agriculture. 56,000 Palestinians live in the area. Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley are deprived of essential services by Israeli building restrictions and have no option but to work as agricultural labourers in Israeli settlements. Workers in Israeli settlements are paid, on average, 30-55 NIS a day. This has been well documented by the Israeli labour organisation Kavlaoved (for example, see here). The Israeli minimum wage, which also applies to Palestinian workers on settlements, is 154 NIS. There is extensive evidence that children, as young as twelve years old, work at the Tomer settlement. In 2008, campaigners interviewed several children working at Tomer. These interviews were captured on video and show that children were employed in the fields, alongside adult workers, and paid as little as 30 NIS a day. Kavalaoved has several more recent reports (see above). There is also widespread concern over the safety of Palestinian date pickers. Workers engaged in picking and thinning are hoisted into date palms, up to 55 feet above the ground, and are left to work there for hours. No ropes or adequate safety equipment are used. This is in breach of Israeli work safety regulations (see Kavlaoved’s short film Bitter Dates). Given above, Corporate Watch would like to ask you whether you will cease sourcing dates from the Tomer settlement and other Israeli settlements. We will be happy to expand on the points we have raised and show you evidence that these practices occur.
Original article at http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=3502