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U.S. embassy sends settlement wine to anti-settlement groups

The diplomatic faux pas is indicative of just how impossible it is to distinguish between Israel and its illegal settlements these days.

A gift basket containing wine produced in the West Bank settlement Mishor Adumim, sent by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to anti-settlement organizations.

A gift basket containing wine produced in the West Bank settlement Mishor Adumim, sent by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to anti-settlement organizations.

Human rights organizations in Israel were in for a surprise on Monday when they opened Rosh Hashanah gift baskets sent by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv. Among the various goodies delivered in honor of the upcoming Jewish New Year — such as chocolates and honey — was a bottle of wine produced in the occupied West Bank.

A broad range of organizations including Peace Now, B’Tselem, and Yesh Din which focus on Palestinian rights and settlement expansion in the occupied territories, were among those to receive the gift basket.

The wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon named “Dolev,” is produced by the Zion Winery located in the West Bank settlement Mishor Adumim. The winery’s website provides a terse historical description, omitting any mention of the fact that it operates out of occupied territory:

The Israeli wine industry is made up of six large wineries — Carmel, Barkan, Golan Heights, Teperberg 1870, Binyamina and Tishbi — and dozens of medium and small wineries, totaling over 150 wineries, and about 12,000 acres of vineyards, according to settlement watchdog Who Profits.

While the wine industry is known for providing information about the origin of grapes that are used in the production of wine, there are several methods to conceal information concerning grapes from settlement vineyards in occupied territory. Investigating the connections of the Israeli wine industry to settler vineyards, Who Profits found that while grapes from the Golan Heights are used quite openly, the wineries that use grapes from West Bank vineyards most often use a myriad of methods to conceal their origins.

Settlement goods, including wines, have been the target of boycotts both inside and outside Israel over the past several years. Vinters in the West Bank have reported an increasingly difficult time selling their products as a result of the growing movement to boycott Israeli products, which was bolstered late last year after the European Union passed a set of guidelines to accurately label the origins of Israeli goods produced beyond the Green Line. EU member states are now able to determine which punishments to enforce on anyone who does not abide by the regulations (the regulations require states to levy sanctions against those who violate them).

The embassy’s decision to include settlement wine in holiday gift baskets is even more curious when considering the U.S.’s position vis-a-vis settlement goods. Every single U.S administration since 1967 has openly opposed Israel’s settlement enterprise, which Washington deems an obstacle to any peace accord. Furthermore Congress has often coupled its support for Israel with outward rejection of the government’s settlement policies – including forbidding the use of U.S.-backed loan guarantees for settlement activity.

In July of last year the U.S. State Department made clear that while the administration “strongly opposes” any boycott, divestment or sanctions against the State of Israel, that same protection is not extended to what it termed “Israel-controlled territories.” According to the statement, the U.S. has “never defended or supported Israeli settlements or activity associated with them, and, by extension, does not pursue policies or activities that would legitimize them… Administrations of both parties have long recognized that settlement activity and efforts to change facts on the ground undermine the goal of a two-state solution.”

Last Christmas, presumedly in response to settlement labeling efforts in Europe and pushback in the White House against the conflation of Israel and its settlements, Israeli ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer sent a holiday gift basket to American officials in Washington, including the White House, comprised exclusively of goods produced in the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights.

A number of U.S. states in recent months have passed legislation barring state capitols from doing business with companies that engage with boycotts of Israel, including boycotts of its illegal settlements. While many supporters of the Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement call for the boycotts of all Israeli products, many progressive Israeli and Jewish groups and individuals advocate a boycott limited to Israel’s settlement enterprise and the products and services it directly produces.

The inclusion of the settlement wine in the U.S. Embassy’s gift basket was likely merely a faux pas by somebody in the protocol office, and not a hint at changing policy. It is, however, indicative of how increasingly difficult it is to distinguish between the economy of Israel proper and that of its settlements in the West Bank; it is almost impossible to avoid settlement products as a consumer. As far as the Israeli economy goes, there is no Green Line, and thus there is almost no way to boycott settlements.

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    1. Richard Lightbown

      That’s why many of us boycott Israel and not just the settlements, pure and simple. Without Israeli government support there would be no settlements. Until the ordinary Joe on the street in Israel sees a problem with the settlements and starts to think about voting for a government that closes them down, Israel has to be the target, since Israel is the sole source of the problem. To them as don’t like it there is a simple answer: do something about it.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Danika Navajo

      The problem with the E.U. policy of labeling Settlement goods, is that it implies something negative about those goods, or their origin, Jews. Arab produced goods from the same location are not so designated. It hints strongly of racism. It says that Jews are not allowed to live or work in a certain place (ie: West Bank), because the non-Jewish population (Palestinian) doesn’t like them. That reminds me of the situation the Jews found themselves in in Europe & Muslim-ruled lands not long ago. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t care for a Jew, but if your trying so hard to be liberal and balanced, then…be liberal and balanced, and don’t be so close minded and racist.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Rotem

      Richard Lightbown – Please start to boycott anything which is being developed in Israel, includes computers, cellulars, anything with satellite connection (internet, TV, phones), health care, food etc., or for short – simply kill yourself.

      Thanks in advance, from the rational people of planet earth 🙂

      Reply to Comment
    4. i_like_ike52

      It should be noted that much of the workforce in the settlement industries is Palestinian. When Sodastream left Ma’alei Adumim for Rahat, they laid off hundreds of Palestinian employees, but no doubt all the comfortable “boycott Israel” people in the EU and US couldn’t care less about them and their families…These type of “limosine liberals” are always “progressive” on somebody else’s account. “Let them suffer so I can feel good about being a “progressive”.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Having recently watched a video about the difficulties Palestinians encounter passing through the checkpoints daily to get to their places of work in Israel, I have been thinking how much more sensible it would be terminate the work permits and train the resent African migrants to take on those jobs. Wouldn’t everyone be happier?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Duh

      Ike: The CEO of Sodastream admitted that within two years, the plant would have closed anyway regardless of any boycott. So how he (and you) can feign outrage over the effect of BDS on the Palestinian workers is a mystery. Also, have you ever expressed outrage at Palestinians not being able to live in the settlements while being employed there…

      ““We didn’t leave Mishor Adumim because of BDS, we had a consolidation plan and we simply ran out of room for expansion there,” Birnbaum said. “However, if it wasn’t for BDS, we might have stayed there another year or two, so it did have some effect.”

      “So, you can say that BDS was responsible for 500 Palestinians losing their jobs when SodaStream moved. But now 74 Palestinians are about to lose their jobs for no reason because of the Israeli government.””


      Reply to Comment
    7. Duh

      Mark: Zionist control of the former British Mandate of Palestine should be terminated so no one can be segregated in their own country.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Ben

      My god the blithering nonsense right wingers spout here. Danika, there is nothing “racist” and “against Jews” about directing a boycott at the occupation. Please try to make even basic distinctions. Rotem, this koolaid your hawking that but for Israeli high tech the world would grind to a halt and we’d enter the dark ages followed by an ice age is past its sell date. Who makes this stuff up? Who are you to tell people what they can and cannot buy? I have to buy West Bank settler wine or else I can’t buy a computer? What? What Richard Lightbown says in the first post on this page succinctly states the truth of the whole matter.

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        “I have to buy West Bank settler wine or else I can’t buy a computer? What?”

        No you can’t. Unless you are talking about a selective partial boycott of Israel in which you boycott only things that don’t inconvenience your own precious ass.

        Reply to Comment
    9. Ben

      Only International Pressure Will End Israeli Apartheid
      The growing delegitimization of Israel is this country’s own handiwork. Should Israel decide to end apartheid, it will return to being legitimate in every respect.
      Amos Schocken
      Jan 22, 2016 6:03 PM

      Reply to Comment
      • AJew

        “Only International Pressure Will End Israeli Apartheid”

        This person who calls himself Ben has only one purpose. He is here to delegitemise Israel. To that end, he endlessly picks and chooses the worst of quotes about Israel from various sources of co-idealogues. And he wilfully ignores quotes from the same sources who at least attempt to present what they hope would pass as a bit of balance.

        For instance, here Ben describes Israel as an apartheid state. Yet even sources which he quoted on other threads beg to differ with him. For instance, here is how one such source of Ben’s describes Israel:

        “Israel is not Nazi (it does not want to conquer the world and has not industrialized its oppression of Palestinians), it is not fascist (Israel has several parties competing for power and a free press); and it is not overseeing a system of South African-style apartheid. (Apartheid was not part of a military conflict, whereas the very group that Israel oppresses and segregates, the Palestinians, are also engaged through a system of regional alliances in a military conflict with Israel”

        But no point in arguing with Ben. He always tries spin to whitewash even the most unwashable statements which he makes about Israel and Jews.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          Then don’t argue with me if you see no point. I’m not asking you to. Your main purpose here seems to be to follow me around and delegitimize me.

          I agree with Illouz that Israel is not overseeing a system of South African-style apartheid. It is overseeing a system of Israeli-style apartheid. South Africa is an original example of apartheid, not exhaustive of the category. Here’s Amos Schocken:

          “There are many differences between conditions in South Africa during the apartheid era and those current in the land from the Jordan River to the sea, especially in the territories that Israel controls beyond its internationally recognized borders. However, there is one important feature they share: two peoples living on one piece of land. One people has all the rights and protections, while the other is deprived of numerous rights and lives under the former’s control. Israel determines the fate and day-to-day life of millions of people who have no influence over its decisions. The government of Israel is the party that will debate whether or not to accept the Israel Defense Forces’ recommendation to ease policies toward the Palestinian Authority and its people. In South Africa, there were similar discussions about easing apartheid for blacks. Israel as an apartheid state is not a viable situation, not only because of the corruption of values but also because this predicament is liable to lead Israel, like South Africa in its time, to banishment from the family of nations…..”

          Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “I agree with Illouz” says Ben.

            So presumably he agrees with Illouz about this too?

            “(Apartheid was not part of a military conflict, whereas the very group that Israel oppresses and segregates, the Palestinians, are also engaged through a system of regional alliances in a military conflict with Israel”

            Not bloody likely I doubt that Ben agrees. Yet when two groups of people are engaged in military conflict they tend to not be overly kind to one another. That’s the nature of military conflicts. Illouz clearly recognises that but not Ben. Watch him mention the occupation as an excuse for Arab behavior and watch him ignore the the fact that the Arabs have point blank refused to sign any peace deal unless the deal reflects only their demands and excludes any Israeli demands. And now watch him sideline the discussion with “but the settlements”. Ah never mind. Ben is predictable and boring.

            Israeli demands?
            Yes, recognition of the Jewish state and no right of return of Arab “refugees”.

            Reply to Comment
          • Duh

            Whoever says there was no military conflict between the South African Apartheid regime and the black Africans it segregated is a clueless dolt. And really needs to read up on the history of that region.

            South Africa occupied German-ruled SW Africa (Namibia) during WWI. It ruled that territory until 1990 in a style similar to that of Israel’s rule in the West Bank, with white South Africans moving in and subjecting the Namibians to the same system as in ZA. This led to guerilla warfare and to the South African military’s intervention in Angola.

            Likewise, as part of PW Botha’s hilariously named “Total Strategy”, the SADF conducted cross-border raids against ANC bases in the Frontline States (states bordering ZA where the ANC operated) during the 80’s.

            South African security forces were used in the bantustans. In ’88, the president of Bophuthatswana was overthrown in a coup and restored to power by them.

            Now, I’m expecting someone to be really clever and tell me these conflicts were a byproduct of apartheid itself, while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not caused by Israel’s control of the West Bank. While the Zionists gradually increased their numbers in Palestine from the late 1800’s to 1948, they built up a para-state that did its best to exclude Arabs, starting with the kibbutzim. The Histadrut trade federation excluded Arabs from membership altogether (And sometimes attempted to create separate worker organizations for Arabs in public works areas where its policy of Hebrew labor couldn’t be enacted).

            Most of all, the Zionist leadership conspired to make Jews the majority in Palestine (And so long as they weren’t, they didn’t want Palestine to have a legislative council based on proportional representation). The Afrikaner National Party strove to make South Africa a white majority state using Apartheid. So yeah, we’ll stop comparing Zionism to Apartheid when we stop finding exact parallels.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            So suddenly Illouz is not relevant when she stops smearing Israel with the aparthaid label? She is only relevant when she says things that Israel haters like to hear?

            Moving on:

            “while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was not caused by Israel’s control of the West Bank.”

            No it wasn’t. Before 1967 Jordan controlled the West Bank. A Palestinian state could have then been created which would have had an ethnically pure Arab population (no Juden). But they did not create the Arab state. And the Palestinians did not blow up a single Jordanian occupier in order to chase them out. Instead they kept on infiltrating Israel and murdering Israelis.

            “Excluded Arabs”

            Yes, and the Arabs clamored to include Jews in their activites? Nah. They waged a bloody campaign to keep Jewish refugees out of the British mandate. Lots of dead and maimed Jews testify to the fact that the campaign by the Arabs was indeed bloody. But people like Duh expect Jews to be inclusive even under such conditions. All I can say is Duh!

            Last but not least:

            Despite the above history. Israel today has a large number of Arab citizens who have full voting rights and who are represented by elected Arab delegates in the Israeli parliament (the Knesset). There are Arab judges who pass sentence over Jews. And At Israeli universities, Arab and Israeli students study side by side. Get the picture? Was SA apartheid like that, Duh? No, Duh! No it wasn’t!

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Over 70 American Intellectuals Call for ‘Targeted Boycott’ of Israeli Settlements
            Signatories say they oppose a boycott of Israel proper but call for settlements to be excluded from U.S. trade benefits and tax exemptions.

            Reply to Comment