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Why Gush Shalom won't end the Barkan boycott - Adam Keller

Dec. 4, 2009 8:40 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 4, 2009 8:42 P.M.)
Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc, has rejected the demand of Barkan Wineries to remove the company's name from Gush's list of settlement products, the movement said in a statement.

A Gush Shalom representative told the company that as long as it continues to maintain vineyards on the Golan Heights, which is an occupied territory, Gush will continue to regard it as a settlement company, despite its having completely removed its plant from the industrial zone of the Barkan settlement from which the vineries originally derived their name.

The name Barkan Wineries appeared on the lists of settlement products which Gush Shalom has been compiling and distributing since 1995, with a call upon consumers in the country and abroad to boycott these products and avoid purchasing them.

The struggle waged by Gush Shalom was joined by activists of the Coalition of Women for Peace, who created a website called "Who Profits from the Occupation?". Among other things, they deployed researchers to monitor the activities of Barkan Wineries in the occupied territories, as well as investigate the company's financial reports and the statements it submitted to the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.

The struggle was also joined by European organizations, such as the Dutch "United Civilians for Peace," which threatened the Heineken beer company with a consumer boycott in the Netherlands due to its links with Barkan Wineries.

After years of struggle and pressure, Barkan Wineries closed its plant in the Barkan settlement industrial zone and transferred it to Kibbutz Hulda inside the Green Line. Thereupon the company's legal adviser, attorney Sa'ar Faraj, this week sent a letter to Gush Shalom spokesperson Adam Keller, stating:

"I was astonished to discover that the name of the Barkan Company is included in the list of settlement products appearing on the Gush Shalom website. I would like to make clear that Barkan is not producing anything at any settlement, nor does it purchase raw materials from any settlement. Therefore, please take care of immediately removing the company's name from your list."

Adam Keller responded to attorney Faraj:

"Greetings and thanks for your letter. I and my fellow members of Gush Shalom are happy to learn, from the text of the letter you wrote, that the directors of Barkan Wineries - your client - now understand what they did not understand in the past: If a company becomes known for conducting business activity at a settlement in Occupied Territory, its good name and business interests, in the country and abroad, might get severely damaged. Naturally, the Barkan Winery company is interested in preventing such damage, by getting its name removed from the Gush Shalom list of settlement products.

"Unfortunately, your statement - 'Barkan is not producing anything at any settlement, nor does it purchase raw materials from any settlement' - is not factually accurate.

"Indeed, after many years when its main plant was located in the industrial zone of Barkan on the West Bank, your client moved it to Kibbutz Hulda within the internationally recognized sovereign territory of the State of Israel. The Gush Shalom movement warmly welcomed that step by the Barkan Wineries, and in fact for a time we seriously considered removing the company's name from our settlement products list. However, our researchers found out that, while having completely left the West Bank, Barkan Wineries still maintain vineyards in no less than three settlements on the Golan Heights, which - as is well known - is also a territory captured in 1967.

"Indeed, the website of your client specifies that the Barkan Wineries hold:

• A 30 dunams' plot of land at the Avnei Ethan settlement, planted with red cabernet sauvignon grapes;

• A 150 dunams' plot of land at the Eliad settlement, planted with red cabernet sauvignon, merlot and shiraz grapes;

• A 40 dunams' plot of land at the Sha'al settlement, planted with red cabernet sauvignon grapes and white sauvignon blanc ones.

"Moreover, the company's website specifically and indeed proudly noted that grapes from the vineyards which the company maintains on the Golan Heights add to its wines 'their unique taste.'

[...]

"To avoid any misunderstanding, I would like to draw your attention to the explanatory note appended to the list of settlement products on the Gush Shalom websites, which explains the rules and criteria determining which companies and products would be included in this list and which would be removed.

"'Definition: what is a settlement, and who is a settler? There is a simple, clear and objective test: any community of Israeli civilians living on land captured by the IDF in the war between 5 June to 10 June 1967 is a settlement, whether it is on Palestinian territory or on Syrian one. All who live is such a community are settlers. ... Whether or not the territory in question was annexed by the State of Israel is immaterial. No country has ever recognized such annexations. As far as International Law, these were and remain Occupied Territories, and the unilateral annexation by the State of Israel is null and void. Any Israeli who goes to live there is violating International Law.'

"So far, the explanatory note on our website ... is clear, therefore, that according to these criteria your client, the Barkan Winery company, definitely counts as one which is still producing in settlements, and purchases raw materials derived from settlements. Therefore, unfortunately, we are bound to continue to include the company’s products in the list of settlement products which we are publishing for the attention of the public in the country and abroad.

"It goes without saying that if we get an authoritative and binding announcement that 'Barkan Wineries Ltd' has completely removed itself from the settlement vineyards at Avnei Ethan, Eliad and Sha’al, the Gush Shalom movement will be most happy to immediately remove the name of the company from our lists and let this step be known to our activists, sympathizers and partners in the country and abroad."

Adam Keller is the spokesman for Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc.
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