New research demonstrates that Tnuva, a leading Israeli food firm, is processing milk from settlements that violate international law.
Who Profits?, a group monitoring the occupation, has filmed trucks collecting milk from the West Bank and bringing it to a Tnuva factory in Rehovot, a city inside present-day Israel.
As Tnuva exports to the EU, the evidence raises questions about whether it is breaching the Union’s rules.
Since the beginning of this year, the EU has refused to recognize the authority of the Israeli authorities to inspect dairy and other animal products from settlements in the West Bank. In effect, this means that the EU does not approve milk from the settlements for sale in its 28 member countries.
The material gathered by Who Profits? indicates, however, that Tnuva is disregarding those rules by processing milk from the occupied West Bank and milk from inside Israel in the same factory.
Who Profits? filmed Tnuva’s trucks bringing milks from three settlements in the West Bank to Rehovot earlier this month. Similar videos were filmed in September and October last year — a few months before the EU’s rules came into effect.
The evidence indicates that Tnuva is continuing to behave in an illegal manner, despite the EU’s rules.
Under the 1907 Hague regulations — a cornerstone of international humanitarian law — it is forbidden for an occupying power to exploit the land and resources of the territory it occupies for commercial purposes.
Who Profits? has listed four Israeli settlements in the West Bank that are known to provide raw materials to Tnuva. The settlements are named Carmel Maon, Beit Yatir, Migdal Oz and Rosh Tzurim.
Israel’s dairy exports have increased in recent years. In 2014, Israeli dairy sales to Europe and the US amounted to $10.5 million each.
Israel is also exporting dairy products to the Asian market. Earlier this year, the Chinese company Bright Foods acquired a controlling share of Tnuva.
As Israel’s largest dairy firm, Tnuva also makes up to $65 million per year from sales to what Who Profits? describes as the “captive Palestinian market.”
In February 2015, a number of Palestinian organizations urged a boycott of Tnuva. The boycott was prompted by how Israel had refused to transfer tax revenue owed to the Palestinian Authority.
While Israel’s dairy industry has found many opportunities to market its goods, Palestinian farmers have often been victims of military violence.
Meanwhile, the Dalloul dairy plant in Gaza City used to provide many Palestinians with milk and cheese at cheaper prices than those of Israeli imports. Israel attacked that factory both in 2009 and the following year.
And during the summer 2014 offensive against Gaza, a farm belonging to the Nadi family in the Beit Hanoun area was destroyed by Israeli shelling. The family had 370 cows. The farm’s output dropped sharply following the attack.
Tnuva, by contrast, does not have to worry too much about its business in Gaza, even though it is under an Israeli siege. It delivers 200 tons of goods to Gaza every day.