“Check the Label” Campaign to Boycott Israeli Dates in the UK

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Don’t let your money go towards entrenching Israel’s occupation of Palestine
Check the label. Do not buy dates that come from: Israel, West Bank or Jordan Valley

Dates have been Israel’s leading fruit export and account for about 15% of export from Israel into the EU. It is estimated that Israel produces over 10,000 tonnes of dates per year and the total income for Israel from dates in a year is approximately £80 million – and a vast majority of which are sold during Ramadhan.

Israeli dates: background

In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that the “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal and an obstacle to peace and to economic and social development [… and] have been established in breach of international law.” (International Court of Justice Ruling, July 9, 2004). They are built on stolen Palestinian land.

Growing dates is one of the major agricultural activities carried out by nearly half of the illegal Israeli settlements located in the Jordan Valley. It is their most profitable crop, and contributes significantly to their economic viability.

Picking the dates is back breaking work, so the Israeli settlers bring in Palestinian labourers. During the pruning season the workers are dropped onto the date palm trees by a hoisting crane at 5 o’clock in the morning, left perched on palms that soar to a height of ten or twelve metres – the height of a three- or four-storey building – and left there swaying in the wind for up to eight hours without a break and with no means to come down until the crane returns at the end of the day. The workers cling to the tree with one arm and work with the other. They cannot even take a break to go to the toilet. If they complain or fall behind their quota they will lose their jobs and their families will starve.
More information: http://www.kavlaoved.org.il/media-view_eng.asp?id=2357

The Israelis also employ children, “even issuing them official work permits, as they are quick and light, can climb trees faster, work for less and it’s easier to cheat and humiliate them. Out of desperate poverty Palestinian families are forced to take their children out of school and hand them over to the settlers to work for a pittance”. (Source: Channel 4 news, 7 July 2008, and KavLaOved, http://www.kavlaoved.org.il/media-view_eng.asp?id=2327.)

Most of the Israeli date crop, up to 80%, is exported, mainly to Europe where it has around 10% market share. In 2005, dates were Israel’s leading fruit export.

The two major Israeli companies involved are Agrexco and Hadi-klaim.
Agrexco, half owned by the Israeli government, handles 60-70% of all goods produced in the settlements. Its dates have the brand names Carmel, Jordan Plains and Jordan Valley. Last September, a week before the start of Ramadan, Carmel boasted in their press release that they had managed an early crop of dates in order to meet the Ramadan demand for dates from Europe’s Muslims!

Hadi-klaim sells 65% of all the dates produced in Israel. Its dates have brand names King Solomon and Jordan River. They also supply Israeli dates to supermarkets and retail chains who market them under their own brand names. These include Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury, Tesco, and Waitrose.
Sometimes they are labelled “produced in the West Bank”, but this just confirms they are grown in illegal Israeli settlements.

Peace activists who visited the Palestinian village of Fasayl in the Jordan Valley last year discovered that villagers are slowly being forced off their land by the Israeli army. The only livelihood left open to them is to work for Carmel Agrexco. The activists even spoke to two Palestinian workers whose land had been stolen and who were forced to work for Carmel in order to feed their families. “They had a message for the peace activists, a plea for anyone who would listen. They urged them to take action against Carmel Agrexco and such companies that support Israeli apartheid.”

See www.zaytoun.org for where to buy fair trade Palestinian dates.

More info: www.palestinecampaign.org.

* Boycott Israeli Medjoul dates and all products which are labelled “Made in Israel” or “Made in West Bank”.
* Write to or visit local stores (supermarkets or smaller shops), make the argument against Agrexco produce and raise awareness of what products and brand names to avoid.
* Speak to your local mosque and ask them not to buy Israeli medjoul dates to break the fast this Ramadan.

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