[Boycott - Divestment]
Israeli winery leaves premises in illegal West Bank settlement
Ma'an News Agency
31 August 2008
Barkan Wineries moved its operations from the illegal northern West Bank settlement of Barkan near the Palestinian city of Salfit.
Barkan Winery on the West Bank
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".
Barkan Wineries left Barkan settlement
The Gush Shalom Movement congratulates the Barkan Wineries for moving away from the industrial zone of Barkan settlement in the northern West Bank, to Kibbutz Hulda within the internationally-recognized territory of Israel. This is an important act, removing one of the major economic mainstays of the settlements. We hope and expect that additional companies will follow the Barkan Wineries out of the Occupied Territories.
The Barkan Wineries had figured prominently on the Gush Shalom Settlement Boycott List since this list was first published some ten years ago. Gush Shalom activists had distributed leaflets, calling upon the public not to purchase the Barkan wines, at the entrances to supermarkets as well as at public gatherings such as the annual memorials to Yitchak Rabin held in Tel Aviv every November.
About four years ago the Barkan Wineries started a process of moving their operations over to Kibbutz Hulda, a process monitored by Gush Shalom. The soft drinks company "Tempo" which holds ownership of the Barkan Wineries entered into a close partnership with the large Dutch beer company "Heineken" , became part of the worldwide Heineken Group and created a new company called "Tempo Drinks" of which the Dutch Heineken holds 40% ownership.
As is well-known, the Dutch government is firmly opposed to Israeli settlement in the Occupied Territories and therefore was far from happy about a close partnership between a Dutch company and one based at a settlement. Moreover, continued links with a settlement company might have exposed the Heineken Company to considerable criticism in the Dutch public opinion and to a boycott campaign, in the Netherlands themselves as well as in other countries.
The Gush Shalom monitoring indicated that the Barkan Wineries were systematically reducing their activity at the Barkan settlement – moving the wine production to Kibbutz Hulda, within The Green Line (Israel's pre-'67 border) and leaving only warehouses at Barkan. By the end of 2007, the warehouses were moved away, too, and the winery's lease on the Barkan premises terminated.
The company directors' report to their stockholders stated: "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".
Nevertheless, while the Barkan Wineries have completely cut off any association with West Bank settlement ativity, the company - which owns many vineyards in various locations - still owns a vineyard at Avney Ethan on the occupied Golan Heights. Therefore, the Gush Shalom Boycott Committee decided, for the time being, to retain the company on its boycott list. "Since this is one vineyard out of many owned by this company, and since its general trend of dissociation from settlement activity is very clear, we hope that this last connection would be severed shortly. We could then wholeheartedly remove the company from our boycott list.
We have no problem with their retaining 'Barkan' as a brand name, as long as they completely disconnect themselves from the Occupied Territories, as is not yet completely the case.
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