Making Israeli profits from the fruits of Palestinian land
The media release from Who Profits? is followed by the first chapters of the report and its full table of contents. Footnotes, which contain much economic, political and legal information, have been removed.
Made in Israel: agricultural export from occupied territories
Media release from Who Profits, April 2014
Who Profits’ report concerns the major Israeli agricultural export companies presently operating in occupied territories. The report demonstrates the severe implications of an Israeli-only agriculture in occupied Palestinian and Syrian lands. For the full report click here.
FIRST SEVEN CHAPTERS OF THE REPORT
Introduction Agricultural export is one of the most profitable sectors in the Israeli market, with most of the produce bound for European countries. According to the Israeli Export Institute, the exports of fresh fruits and vegetables in 2012 amounted to one billion US dollars. 65% of this produce was destined for European Union (EU) countries.
In 2011, the exports of fresh fruits and vegetables from Israel amounted to USD 996 million, 66% of it for EU countries. From January to September 2011, the agricultural exports to EU countries were 32% of all exports from Israel to these countries. Much of the agricultural produce exported from Israel is grown in the occupied Palestinian territories: the West Bank (including East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea area), as well as in the occupied Syrian territory.
Intensive agricultural production in illegal Israeli settlements makes use of water and other natural resources from occupied Palestinian land. In the Jordan Valley, Israel granted almost exclusive use of water to settlements. Every year, settlers export some 285 million US dollars’ worth of agricultural goods to Europe, whereas the comparable figure for Palestinians is merely 19 million dollars. This figure of agricultural export from settlements reaches to 28% of the Agricultural produce exported from Israel.
The extensive development of Israeli agriculture in the occupied Palestinian territories has contributed to the profits made by settlements and settlers from crops, and the establishment of water facilities and agricultural export companies. All the fruits and vegetables grown in Israel and in the occupied territories are labeled as products of Israel. This, despite the fact that the international community has never recognized Israeli sovereignty over these areas and the settlements are declared illegal, as an occupying power is prohibited under international law from transferring parts of its civilian population into the occupied territory.
In accordance with the Paris Protocol, the economic annex to the Oslo Accords, Israeli agricultural export companies also market and export Palestinian produce from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as will be described below. The most common types of fruit exported from Israel are avocados, mangos, persimmons, dates, grapes, pomegranates and plums. Citrus, non-organic and organic avocados, kiwis, persimmons and passion fruit are primarily exported to France, Germany and Russia. The citrus exports from Israel equaled USD 187 million in 2012 and exports of other fruits equaled USD 308 million.
The most common types of vegetables exported to Europe (mainly to France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands) are potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, small radishes and tomatoes. By operating in illegal Israeli settlements, Israeli and international companies help maintain Israel’s control over water and land in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip,which prevents the development of an independent Palestinian agricultural sector and stunt Palestinian economic development in general.
The following report concerns the major Israeli agricultural export companies presently operating in occupied territories. The report demonstrates the severe implications of an Israeli-only agriculture in occupied Palestinian and Syrian lands. Prior to the publication of this report, Who Profits sent letters to all the companies mentioned in the report, detailing all the information it intended to include about the companies. Other than Hadikalim and EDOM UK, none of the companies responded to Who Profits’ letters.
Israeli Agricultural Production in Occupied Territories
Israeli agriculture in the West Bank centers on three areas: between Qalqilya and Tulkarm, between Jenin and Qabatiya and in the occupied part of the Jordan Valley. Nearly 63% of the agricultural land in the West Bank is located in Area C, the part of the West Bank that is controlled solely by Israel, in which it prevents Palestinian construction and carries out the majority of its demolitions and land confiscations.
Most of the pomegranates exported to Europe and Russia are grown in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem,15 as well as 22% of the almonds,12.9% of the olives,17 5.4% of the nectarines18 and 3% of the peaches. The main products exported from the occupied Golan Heights are grapes, grapevines, apples, watermelons, melons, citrus, tomatoes, corn, onions, olives, beans, parsley, garlic, peppers and herbs. Almost all of the kiwis in Israel are grown in the occupied Golan Heights.
The Occupied part of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea Area
The occupied area of the Jordan Valley is about 2,400 square kilometers. It is situated in the eastern part of the West Bank and accounts for some 28.5% of its size. With its favorable climate, fertile land and plentiful water supply, the occupied Jordan Valley is the main agricultural area in the West Bank and the whole of the occupied Palestinian territories.
Although the Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley have a relatively small population, 86% of the land falls under the jurisdiction of their regional councils. Currently, 94% of the Jordan Valley is under direct Israeli control (Area C). The Palestinian communities, which had been growing agricultural produce in the occupied Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area before 1967, have since been expelled from their lands and are currently unable to reach them.
After the 1967 War, the Israeli Major General Uzi Narkis issued two military orders: Order 150, which regularized the protection of absentee properties in the Jordan Valley, and Order 151, which declared much of the Jordan Valley’s lands as a closed military zone, preventing the absentee Palestinian landowners from reaching their lands. These lands are considered a closed military zone to this day.
During the 1980s, the State of Israel transferred some of these lands to the World Zionist Organization, which leased it to the Jordan Valley settlers for the purpose of agricultural cultivation. According to the Ha’aretz newspaper, Jordan Valley settlers cultivate more than 5,000 dunams (5 square kilometers) of privately-owned Palestinian land; most of it is used for date groves. The Zionist Organization explained that the license for agricultural cultivation was granted only for state lands and absentee lands, which belong to Palestinians that escaped or were deported in 1967.
The occupied part of the Jordan Valley is one of the most restricted areas of the West Bank in terms of freedom of movement. It is almost entirely cut off from many Palestinian cities by checkpoints, roadblocks and dozens of kilometers of trenches and earth walls. This includes access to markets in East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.28 Closed military zones and large nature reserves further limit Palestinians’ access to their farming lands; approximately 56% of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area are designated as military areas.
According to the settlement researcher Dror Atkes, who is mapping data published by the Israeli Civil Administration, some 55 square kilometers of the area trapped between the Separation Wall and the Jordan River is privately-owned by Palestinians; yet the owners of this land are banned from entering it. Palestinian farmers also have restricted access to agricultural resources such as fertilizers and farm equipment.
By contrast, Israeli settlers are able to freely transport fertilizers into the Jordan Valley. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, the overall productivity loss in the Jordan Valley due to these measures is around 30%. The cultivated area of the Jordan Valley is approximately 32 squarekilometers, cultivated by settlers from the 21 settlements in the occupied part of the Jordan Valley, 17 of which are villages and kibbutzim that make their living from agriculture and the other four are communal settlements that have also been granted lands for agricultural cultivation by the State of Israel.
In 2011, it was decided to increase the lands allocated for agricultural cultivation by the Jordan Valley settlements by 130%, from 35 to 80 dunams. Agricultural production by settlers in the occupied Jordan valley, which totaled about USD 125 million in 2010, includes dates, olives, citrus fruits, figs, pomegranates, guavas, melons, organic melons, watermelons, grapes, grapevines, peppers, cucumbers, onions, herbs, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, sweet potatoes, onions and flowers.
Most of the produce is designated for export. 4.5% of the avocados and 1.7% of the bananas exported from Israel are grown in the occupied Jordan Valley. In addition, herbs for export are primarily grown in the occupied Jordan Valley, and 80% of them are exported to Europe, mainly to France, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Scandinavia; other export destinations are Russia and the United States. Peppers from the occupied Jordan Valley are mainly exported to the Netherlands, where they are repacked and remarketed to chain stores in the United Kingdom, such as Lidl, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, White Rose, Marks & Spencer, Morrisons and Asda.
While the Jordan Valley holds a third of the West Bank’s underground water resources, an inequitable division of water under the Oslo Interim Agreement (also known as Oslo II) meant that Israelis were allocated four times more water than Palestinians from the shared Mountain Aquifer. This unequal access to water leaves Israeli farms in settlements well-irrigated by water from the Israeli national water company” to here Mekorot, [sic] while Palestinian farmers and communities are largely dependent on much more expensive tankard water.
According to the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, 69% of water extractions in the West Bank, carried out by Mekorot, come from Israeli wells drilled in the Jordan Valley. These wells primarily serve the Israeli settlements and their water-intensive agricultural production. In 1967, there were 209 active Palestinian wells in the Jordan Valley; today there are only 89. This is mainly due to Israeli restrictions on the development of Palestinian wells and water resources. Israelis pump up to three times more water from wells in the Jordan Valley than Palestinians, and Palestinians are prohibited from obtaining permits to drill new wells. The Israeli civil administration and Mekorot also destroy water wells and water sources that belong to Palestinians.
The Dates Market
The dates’ field is one of the largest agricultural fields in Israel. In 2012, there was a 5% increase in the planting of date palm tree orchards in Israel, with 572,504 date palm trees spread over 458 square kilometers and producing 32,000 tons of dates, approximately two-thirds of which were Medjool dates.
In 2012, the Israeli date market was estimated by the Ministry of Agriculture to be worth NIS 420 million (approximately USD 116 million). More than 60% of the dates sold in Israel are grown in the occupied part of the Jordan Valley. According to the website of the Jordan Valley Research and Development, there are 16 square kilometers of date palm groves in the Jordan Valley, most of them Medjool dates. Every year, 1000 dunams (1 square kilometer) of date palm trees are planted in the Jordan Valley.
In the past few years, the Israeli Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization initiated the planting of over one square kilometer of palm trees in the settlements of Hemdat, Maskiot and Rotem in the occupied section of the Jordan Valley. The largest date grove in the world (1.1 square kilometers) is located in the Kalia settlement in the occupied northern Dead Sea area. Israel is the world’s biggest exporter of dates, with over 50% of its entire date produce destined for export; more than 80% of the dates grown specifically in the Jordan Valley are destined for export. Israel supplies more than half the world’s Medjool dates, 51% of which are grown in the occupied part of the Jordan Valley.
In 2012, there was approximately a 20% increase in the export of dates from Israel relative to the previous year, and 14,500 tons of dates (mainly Medjool) were exported, totaling USD 70 million. According to the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture, one of the reasons for this rise is a sales promotion project in the United Kingdom, financed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Israeli dates’ growers. The dates from Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories are exported to Europe (Spain, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Russia), Asia (mainly Japan) and North America.
As stated above, 80% of the dates in the occupied Jordan Valley are destined for export, and the settlements of the Jordan Valley produce 40% of the dates exported from Israel, mainly to the European market. In 2012, there were 4 square kilometers (4000 Dunams) of organic date groves in Israel, most of them in the occupied part of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area. Most of the Israeli organic date growers export their produce through Hadiklaim (see more on this company below), whichspecializes in date export. Approximately 600 tons of organic dates, most of the produce, are exported mainly to Western Europe: Germany, France and the United Kingdom; Barhi organic dates are also marketed to Gaza.
The dates in Israel enjoy the highest protective tariff (a tariff that is leveled on imported dates but not on local growers) in Israel, up to 560%. This makes it unprofitable to import dates to Israel, and cheaper to purchase dates grown in Israel. Therefore, the Israeli date market is not open to competition and the local growers can sell their produce in Israel at a very high price. The branches of the palm trees are also a part of the industry, since they are used as the traditional lulav65 for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
In 2011, it was estimated that approximately 600,000-700,000 lulavim were purchased annually in Israel, most of them imported from el-Arish in Sinai, Egypt. In August 2011, the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture banned the lulav export, not only to Israel but to the entire world. Subsequently, the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture offered incentives and training to Israeli date growers, in order to increase the number of lulavim they supply to the local market. Permits were also granted to Israeli importers of lulavim from Spain, Jordan and the Gaza Strip.
Date groves in Israel are irrigated with brackish water and purified wastewater.68 Farmers in the occupied Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area mostly use purified wastewater from the wastewater purification facilities of the Jerusalem Municipality and brackish water from springs and drillings in the area.69 Following an increased flow of purified wastewater to the Jordan Valley settlement farms, there was an increase in their date crops.
Settlement farmers in the area also use flood water from the Nablus area, which flows to the Tirza reservoir (located near the Yafit settlement) and treated wastewater that flows from Jerusalem through the Kidron Valley. The treated wastewater comes from several sources: neighborhoods in West Jerusalem, Israeli neighborhoods built on land in the West Bank that it annexed to Jerusalem, Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, the settlements of Ma’ale Adumim, Geva Binyamin (Adam), Anatot, Mitzpe Yeriho and the Palestinian communities of Bethlehem, Beit Sahur, Abu Dis, and al-Eizariya. The wastewater is collected in two facilities: a diversion facility that operates without official approval, built in the Horqaniya Valley, south of Nabi Musa, and run by the Jordan Valley Water Association; and the Og reservoir, south of the Beit Haarava intersection, which is operated by a subsidiary of the Jerusalem Municipality’s water corporation (Hagihon) and the private water company Tamar Waters, owned by four northern Dead Sea settlements.
The Og reservoir was established in order to treat the wastewater flowing through the Kidron Valley and use it to irrigate the date crops of the settlements in the occupied part of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea area. Tamar Waters recently established another reservoir (Og 2) near the Og reservoir, for the irrigation of above-the-ground vegetables.75 Needless to say, the treated wastewater is not used by Palestinians in the area and is reserved for the use of Israeli settlement farmers.
Mislabeling of Agricultural Produce
The question of whether a settlement product can be labeled as a product of Israel has been hanging in the air since 1976, with the increasing establishment of settlements. There is wide international consensus that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. International Humanitarian Law (the laws of war and occupation), namely the Fourth Geneva Convention, prohibits the establishment of civilian settlements in occupied territories and prohibits the use of the occupied territory other than for the benefit of the protected persons – the local, occupied population. Numerous UN resolutions have called for the withdrawal of the settlements, and they were declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004.
Most recently, an independent UN established fact- finding mission reiterated the illegality and grave impact on the Palestinians of the settlements in its February 2013 report. The report called on states to enhance corporate accountability and advance the withdrawal of economic involvement in settlements.
Moreover, an occupying power cannot unilaterally claim sovereignty over part or all of the occupied territories prior to the conclusion of legitimate negotiations with others claiming sovereign rights over the same territory, here the Palestinian Authority or State of Palestine.
Yet, Israeli settlers and export companies operating in the occupied Palestinian Territories often misleadingly label their products as “Made in Israel.” The EU-Israel Association Agreement, which came into effect in June 2000, defined Israeli goods as exempt from customs duties. Although the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights are not recognized as a part of Israel by EU Member States, Israel applied this agreement de facto to the occupied territories, as well.
In August 2004, Israel agreed that the place of origin will be noted on Israeli goods, so that the customs authorities of EU Member States could distinguish between products from settlements and products from inside Israel proper. In practice, an unknown amount of goods produced in settlements is still exported as Israeli.
EU Member States rely on the information provided by Israeli exporters regarding fruits and vegetables, since it is difficult to verify precisely where the products were harvested. Officials in Brussels have come to the conclusion that controllers in many Member States are simply turning a blind eye to products originating from Israeli settlements. Directive 2000/13/EC, concerning food labeling, requires consumer labels to indicate the “true origin” of goods. According to Directive 2005/29/EC on unfair commercial practices, a trader is considered to be conducting misleading actions when it presents material information “in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.”
Under this directive, indicating Israel as the origin for products produced in occupied territories would be a misleading action. In addition, European Council Regulation 1234/2007 establishes rules “on specific provisions for certain agricultural products,” including wine. The place of origin is noted among the required product information.
On 25 February 2010, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled that goods produced in settlements in the occupied West Bank cannot be considered as made in Israel. The Judgement of the Court states:
“Products obtained in locations which have been placed under Israeli administration since 1967 do not qualify for the preferential treatment provided for under that [the EU-Israel Association] agreement […] Products originating in the West Bank do not fall within the territorial scope of that agreement and do not therefore qualify for preferential treatment under that agreement.”
This ruling by the European Court of Justice has considerable implications, politically as well as economically. It serves as precedent for other products manufactured by companies in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. With this ruling, the court took a clear stance, stating that the occupied territories should not be regarded as part of the State of Israel.
The mislabeling of settlement products also raises the issue of consumer fraud, since settlement products sold under the “Made in Israel” label contain information that misleads consumers. The definition of consumer fraud varies from country to country. The prohibition on consumer fraud is generally perceived as part of the consumer’s right to know the basic facts about the product s/he is purchasing, a right that has been enshrined in consumer protection laws in many countries, including Germany, the UK and US. The place of production is part of this basic information.86 On 5 April 2013, the South African Department of Trade and Industry issued a General Notice87 banning the false labeling of Israeli settlement goods, in accordance with South African and international law. This notice requires that settlement products be labeled according to their true place of origin. Labels must indicate “Golan Heights: Israeli Goods,” “West Bank: Israeli Goods,” or “East Jerusalem: Israeli Goods.” In a circular written by the Dutch Foreign Ministry and published in March 2013 on the website of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, stores were advised (though not required) to replace “Made in Israel” labels with a label stating “Product from Israeli settlement (West Bank/Golan Height/ East Jerusalem).” The notice further stated that labeling products from areas beyond the Green Line as made in Israel would be “misleading,” as international law does not recognize those areas as part of Israel. The governments of Ireland, Denmark and the United Kingdom have also stated their support for labeling settlements products.
At a meeting in December 2012, the foreign ministers of the European Union’s 27 Member States reiterated “their commitment to ensure continued, full and effective implementation of existing European Union legislation and bilateral arrangements applicable to settlement products.”
In February 2013, Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton sent a letter to her colleagues, asking them to enforce EU legislation on this matter. In mid-April, the foreign ministers of 13 Member States – including France, Britain (which imposed labels in British shops in 2009), Spain and the Netherlands – replied to Ashton, expressing their support for clearly labeling products imported from settlements.91 The issue was due to be promoted at the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council in May 2013, but was delayed to the end of June at the request of US Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry asked the EU to postpone this discussion because he wanted to present a plan for resuming the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations by mid-June. The EU decided to grant Kerry this requested delay and see whether the negotiations are resumed.
Table of Contents
Israeli Agricultural Production in Occupied Territories 10
The Occupied part of the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea Area 11
The Dates Market 14
Mislabeling of Agricultural Produce 18
Agricultural Export of Palestinian Produce 22
The Paris Protocol: The Economic Annex to the Oslo Accords 23
Export from the Gaza Strip 27
Export Companies of Produce From Occupied Territories 30
Agrexco Carmel agricultural export company 32
Agrofresh Pro 36
Agro Star/Bar Magen 37
Aluma – The best produce 38
Amit Agro-Fresh 39
Arava Export Growers 41
K.B. Dream Fruit 44
EDOM UK 45
Gilad desert produce 47
Kedem Hadarim 50
Mor Hasharon fruit (Sharon Fruit) 57
R.A.N Fresh Produce 58
Sole – Fresh agricultural produce 59
Terra – cosmopolitan trade 60
Field Produce Marketing (Tnuvot) 61
Export companies located in settlements or owned by settlements 63
Chen Eastern Industries 65
Inbar F.I. marketing and exporting of agricultural produce 67
SM Valley 68
Zemach Avocado 69
Date Exporters and Major Growers 71
D. Hay Agricultural Product Marketing 71
Genesis Land Dates/N.S Water and maintenance services 72
Tamar Hazahav/The Golden Date 80
Vered Hatamar and Mata Tmarim 80
Annex: A table of agriculture production and operation in the settlements 83