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Israeli winery leaves premises in illegal West Bank settlement

Aug. 31, 2008 8:47 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 31, 2008 8:47 P.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Barkan Wineries moved its operations from the illegal northern West Bank settlement of Barkan near the Palestinian city of Salfit.

The company began moving its operations in 2004 to Kibbutz Hulda in central Israel, and announced recently the closure of all operations in the West Bank.

According to the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom, the Barakan Wineries "systematically" reduced their activity in the settlement and by 2007 had only warehouses in the illegal location. Gush Shalom reported on Sunday that the lease of the winery was now terminated.

In September 2004, the Israeli drinks company Tempo acquired a 39% controlling interest in the Barkan winery. Around the same time Tempo made an agreement with the Dutch beer company Heineken, which became a controlling interest in a new company, Tempo Drinks, which was granted permission to make and distribute Heineken beers.

According to the Israeli peace group's report, the Dutch government "was far from happy about a close partnership between a Dutch company and one based at a settlement."

It appears that pressure from boycott groups and the Dutch government successfully pressured the Barkan winery into leaving the illegal West Bank settlement.

A statement from the company to its shareholders addressing the move said:

"In the past, the location of the company's winery at the Barkan area caused a negative image and made difficult the exporting of the Barkan brands. The company is acting to change this image, especially in light of moving production activity to Kibutz Hulda. (.) Due to severe limitation caused by the size of the Barkan location, as well as due to problems connected with operating a winery beyond the Green Line, the company decided to remove the winery from the Barkan Industrial Zone and relocate it to the Hulda site".

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