German dept store returns Israeli products to shelves

Berlin mall

KaDeWe says it acted "hastily and insensitively" in removing products made in the West Bank and Golan Heights.

Management of German department store KaDeWe, which last week removed products made in the West Bank and the Golan Heights from its shelves, today announced that it was retracting its decision. In its statement, the chain wrote, "We acted too hastily and insensitively. We regret this mistaken behavior, which has led to misunderstanding, and we wish to apologize for it." The company announced that the products, including eight Israeli wines, would return to its shelves, and noted that KaDeWe was offering its customers more than 200 Israeli products. "The store opposes any kind of discrimination and intolerance," it stated.

The store's decision, which resulted from the European Union (EU) decision to mark products from these areas, drew angry responses from Israeli politicians. Commenting on the store's action, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, "This store was owned by Jews, and the Nazis took it away. Ironically, this store is now marking products from Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria, and the Golan Heights." He added, "It began with marking products, and now we have been told that the products have been removed - a boycott for all intents and purposes. We strongly protest this morally, factually, and historically unacceptable measure. We expect the German government, which opposed marking the products, to take action in this serious matter."

Eli Shor, manager of the Maalei Adumim-based Hacormim Winery, products from which are sold to KaDeWe, said before the store changed its mind that he had been surprised that the store had decided to implement the EU decision. "I'm surprised that this store, with its historical background in central Berlin, made such a decision. I call this anti-Semitism, because they aren't punishing the government and its leaders, but the employees, including the Palestinian employees. We have wonderful coexistence. This is where they choose to boycott?"

Shor said that the winery had suffered economic damage from the EU decision and the calls to boycott products from Jewish communities beyond the Green Line. "Sales are down in Italy and France, but demand in other places has increased. For example, a customer in the US doubled his order. This was a response against the European boycott. Personally, I don't see the winery closing down, but even I can handle it personally, it's more difficult for others. I'm surprised that no representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of the Economy has contacted us, and that they have nothing to say."

In an official document of the European Commission concerning the marking of products, it was made clear that the purpose of the new regulations was simple: "to provide the information necessary concerning the origin of the products, and not to mislead the consumer." In the language of the official announcement, "The 'made in Israel' label for products coming from Jewish communities beyond the Green Line misleads the consumer, and is therefore is inconsistent with the prevailing legislation in the EU.

"Under international law, the EU does not recognize Israel's sovereignty in the territories occupied by it in June 1967 - the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem - and does not consider them part of Israeli territory, regardless of their legal status under Israeli law," the EU statement continued. "The EU has made it clear that it does not recognize changes made in the 1967 borders, except for those agreed on by the parties in the peace process."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 22, 2015

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2015

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