In precedent-setting victory, South African company severs ties with Israeli settlement produce exporter

The first month of 2013 hasn’t yet come to a close but the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israeli apartheid, colonialism and occupation has marked a significant victory.

The Palestine Solidarity Alliance and BDS South Africa announced today that following a year of campaigning, Karsten Farms stated via its attorneys that it has severed its relations with Israeli cooperative Hadiklaim, which operates in Israel’s illegal settlement colonies, and pledges not to business with any other Israeli entity complicit in the occupation.

According to the campaigns, “this is the first time that a South African company has adopted such an undertaking.”

Company boycotted by Presbyterian Church USA

The campaigns’ statement (read the full text below) also adds that Hadiklaim is the same company that the Presbyterian Church USA, with two million members, voted to boycott at its general assembly last year.

According to the BDS South Africa website, the Israeli cooperative Hadiklaim imports medjoul dates from Karsten Farms before it enters European and other markets, under various branding. BDS South Africa adds that Hadiklaim “openly admits” to sourcing its dates from various West Bank settlements though its product is misleadingly labeled as “Israeli” produce without any indication of its origin from settlements. Hadiklaim’s CEO has also said that the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank is an “important area” for the company.

Property destroyed, families displaced

The occupied Jordan Valley is under full Israeli civil and military control and Palestinian communities there are “among the poorest and most vulnerable in the occupied West Bank,” lacking adequate access to basic infrastructure while they are threatened with demolition to make way for further Israeli colonization.

Dozens of Palestinian-owned structures were demolished by Israeli forces in the Jordan Valley this month in areas designated as “firing zones” for military training according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance. In 2012, more than “230 Palestinian families, mainly in the northern Jordan Valley, were temporarily displaced due to training conducted by the Israeli military in and around their communities,” UN OCHA adds.

The announcement of the precedent-setting South African boycott victory comes as solidarity activists gear up for a day of action targeting Israeli agricultural export corporations on 9 February. The campaign has been called for by Palestinian agricultural organizers to shed light on the produce exporters’ “deep complicity in Israel’s ongoing violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.”

Full statement by the Palestine Solidarity Alliance and BDS South Africa:

In a move being celebrated as a South African boycott-of-Israel breakthrough, Karsten Farms, a leading South African agricultural company backed by one of South Africa’s primary finance bodies, the Industrial Development Corporation, has severed its relations with the Israeli cooperative, Hadiklaim, and has also undertaken not to enter into any future relations with any Israeli entity complicit in the illegal Israeli Occupation of Palestine. This is the first time that a South African company has adopted such a legal undertaking.

Early last year, South African human rights organizations, lead by the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA) and BDS South Africa, launched a consumer campaign against Karsten Farms due to its trade relations with Israel’s Hadiklaim - an Israeli company operating, against international law, in the illegal Israeli settlements.

This week, after almost a 3 years of campaigning, in a letter to BDS South Africa via their lawyers, Werksmans Attorneys, Karsten Farms undertook: “Not to enter into any trade relations with Hadiklaim for the current harvest year of 2013 and not have any business relations with them [Hadiklaim] in the future.”

In addition, and in a breakthrough move, Karsten Farms also undertook: “Not to enter into any trade relations with any Israeli company and/or entity within the occupied/illegal settlement areas of Israel”.

Siphiwe Thusi of the Palestine Solidarity Alliance welcomed the news: “This is the first time that a South African company has taken the legally as well as ethically correct decision not to trade with Israeli companies complicit in the illegal Israeli Occupation of Palestine. Karsten Farms has indeed set a precedent for other South African businesses and companies to follow. This is a breakthrough not only for the boycott of Israel but also for ethical and good business practice.”

Thusi, added that “the call for the consumer boycott of Karstens products has now ended by virtue of their legal undertakings” however he also cautioned that “the Palestine Solidarity Alliance and BDS South Africa will be monitoring the situation and if any new Israeli relations, even if via third parties, were to be formed, the boycott campaign against Karsten Farms would be re-launched, and intensified.”

In 2005 Palestinians issued a call to the international community for a program and campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) to be applied against Israel as a non-violent method to pressure Israel to end its violations of international law, respect Palestinian human rights and engage in fair negotiations for a just peace.

Since 2005, Israel has suffered from a significant cultural boycott and an increasing economic boycott. In April 2012, the UK’s fifth largest food retailer, the Co-Op, became one of the first companies in the world to adopt a boycott of Israeli companies complicit in the illegal settlements and occupation of Palestine. A few months later, in the United States, the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, comprising of over 2 million members, voted to boycott Israel’s Hadiklaim - the same company that Karsten Farms has now severed links with. Israel has subsequently passed a law, the “anti-boycott law”, allowing those that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel to be sued and fined.




Congratulations to BDS South Africa and the Palestine Solidarity Alliance for managing to get Karsten Farms to sever ties with the Hadiklaim cooperative. In the grand scheme of things this would be perceived by the Zionists as being a minor victory. However, this is a victory of conscience for Muslim South African consumers, especially when so many dates are purchased during the month of Ramadaan.

Maureen Clare Murphy

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Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.