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Unilever shuts down Ariel settlement factory, moves production west of the Green Line (Updated)

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Unilever at night A840x630
Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam.


United Civilians for Peace released the following statement:

Unilever fully withdraws factory from West Bank

British-Dutch multinational Unilever has informed Dutch NGO United Civilians for Peace (UCP) that the company no longer operates two production lines of daughter company Beigel and Beigel. Beigel and Beigel is a snack food factory, established in Barkan, the industrial zone of the Israeli settlement Ariël in the occupied West Bank. The production lines have been transferred to Unilever’s plant in Safed, behind the Green Line in Israel proper.

UCP expresses its content for the fact that Unilever, after years of hesitation, finally came to terms. From 2006 onward UCP has urged the company to withdraw Beigel and Beigel from the occupied territories. UCP stresses that dialogue and pressure from society have prevailed in bringing the British-Dutch giant towards its decision. Unilever will now serve as an example for each and other company [involved in the illegal West Bank business].

“Unilever’s decision is a clear message to the Israeli government that international businesses will back off from its settlement policy. UCP has always stressed that ‘no justice can result from unjustice’, and that Unilever’s decision was both justified and unavoidable” – says UCP spokesman Guido van Leemput. “It will serve as the ultimate example for other Dutch and multinational companies to give up their interests in and with the settlements.”

Original Post:

Multinational global giant Unilever confirmed Monday that as of January 1, 2013 its snack and pretzel factory located in the Barkan industrial zone of the Ariel settlement is no longer operational. The company has withdrawn the production line of its subsidiary, Beigel and Beigel, and transfered it to a plant in Safed, Israel on the other side of the Green Line.

The announcement comes just four days after UN fact finding mission issued a blockbuster report calling on governments and companies to terminate business interests in the settlements. Unilever claims the move is a result of “pure business motives‘.

beigel and beigel orig jun 2008
Beigel&Beigel Ariel WB, Palestine (Photo:WhoProfits)

Regardless of the motives the significance of this decision can not be underestimated. Unilever, a UK and Dutch company headquartered in Rotterdam, Netherlands, is the third-largest consumer goods company in the world measured by 2011 revenues.

The Dutch group United Civilians for Peace (UCP) began pressuring Unilever over their Barkan factory in 2006. Two years later in 2008 the French supermarket group Carrefour and British department store Harrods boycotted the snacks and Unilever announced it would divest from Beigel and Beigel but that didn’t happen.

The UN report released last Thursday calls for companies and governments to “assess the human rights impact of their activities” and end any connection to the settlements:

117. Private companies must assess the human rights impact of their activities and take all necessary steps – including by terminating their business interests in the settlements – to ensure they are not adversely impacting the human rights of the Palestinian People in conformity with international law as well as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Mission calls upon all Member States to take appropriate measures to ensure that business enterprises domiciled in their territory and/or under their jurisdiction, including those owned or controlled by them, that conduct activities in or related to the settlements respect human rights throughout their operations. The Mission recommends that the Human Rights Council Working Group on Business and Human Rights be seized of this matter.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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28 Responses

  1. seafoid
    February 5, 2013, 4:17 pm

    Ma sha allah

    But what were Unilever doing in “Ariel” in the first place?

  2. Woody Tanaka
    Woody Tanaka
    February 5, 2013, 5:02 pm

    Excellent. Now it needs to shift all of its production outside “israel” completely until the Palestinians are free of their oppressors.

  3. gamal
    February 5, 2013, 8:58 pm

    undoubtedly someone is going to get their fingers burnt in this settlement enterprise, i hope some Palestinian lodges a class action, which frankly i have no idea what that is, but feel that its probably the right move. just posting to say hello to annie really, from wet Jamaica. one love

    • annie
      February 6, 2013, 1:46 pm

      gamal! hello, i’ve missed you around here. jamaica huh. wow. i could do for a little jamaica in the near future. write me.

      • gamal
        February 7, 2013, 8:30 pm

        yes ma’am, out here vybz cartel and the slackness “bleachers” (sadly they also use skin lightening products) crowd use the name Gaza (but dont see the irony), because it symbolizes, in this sphere unbreakable toughness, here the state provides almost nothing but corrupt police, not unlike many third world places, resistance here is subsumed within crime like very many places globally.

    • American
      February 6, 2013, 2:37 pm

      Hey gamal…..what’s Port Antonio like now?
      Haven’t been there since the late 80’s…has it become too commercialized?

      • gamal
        February 7, 2013, 8:53 pm

        i’ll check it out not been, mainly in the st. elizabeth hills with the rastas, the young ones are very militant, all of them very clear about zionism, and other assorted ne’er do wells like myself, being here is affecting me, all that anger and frustration dissipates, the generosity of spirit and kindness of the penniless rastas in the “Morass” has humanized me again, boy are we all in for a warm time, as the system is restructured to generate mass poverty and misery even in the core societies.

        I was importuned by a small blonde plump American woman, from Long Island, in Nigril, who nearly fell of her chair when i replied to her generous offer of a drink in her hotel room, i have a very upper class english accent, my mother schooled me ruthlessly, she thought i was Jamaican or perhaps she was just snapping at anything that moved, look at us beings how we slash and tear at each other, Guidance, love and peace as the rastas proclaim. i’ll check port antonio. am going to get in touch with the University of the west indies, sorry i dont know many people as a result of fleeing across the globe, sorry to burden you with personal shit, but for me there is a thread that runs from Palestine through all the savage extractionist regimes and investors (like me) and sundry kleptocrats, all i can do in recompense for the inevitable social harm i cause is to invest in grass roots business’s with the rastas dem.

        i log on and always check this site, very grateful for your coverage.

        lan ya murra.

      • American
        February 9, 2013, 10:36 am

        Thanks gamal.

  4. February 5, 2013, 9:21 pm

    “pure business motives”. Well, duh. Getting out before losing a lot because of possible boycott and even sanctions, that’s sound business policy. Good way of formulating it.

  5. Walid
    February 6, 2013, 2:12 am

    Annie, better late than never; Unilever had promised to divest from Beigel and Beigel in 2006 but it didn’t. It had also announced Beigel and Beigel’s relocation to within Israel proper 4 years ago and it didn’t until last summer.

    More good news from the settlers’ Israel National News of Aug 2012:

    … Unilever decided to move the factory after European groups organized a boycott of Unilever products over the fact that the company owned a factory in the “Occupied West Bank.”

    Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Nachman (Mayor of Ariel) decried what he said was a trend of factory closures in Barkan. “Many Israeli companies that have been acquired by multinationals and had facilities in Barkan were moved elsewhere, to within the 1948 armistice lines.”

    Other companies that have moved from the industrial zone in recent months include Multiech, makers of Rav Bariach doors and locks, which for years was headquartered in Barkan, but was moved after it was acquired by a Swedish company, along with the Barkan Winery, which was moved to Kibbutz Hulda after a reorganization (the company has retained the name Barkan for its wines). “I authorized the establishment of the Beigel and Beigel factory over 20 years ago, and it was a wonderful business, and all of the sudden Unilever buys it up and because of politics moves it to Tzfat.”

    The worst part, said Nachman, was that the company had been rewarded for moving north – receiving building and tax credits due to companies opening up in peripheral areas. In that sense, Nachman said, the government was encouraging the international boycott of Judea and Samaria.

    “There are groups that want to destroy the businesses of Judea and Samaria, but no government ministers take an interest in this problem. First the Palestinians boycotted us and then the South Africans did, and now Israelis themselves are taking away our factories. Where is the government of Israel in all this?”

  6. judithbell
    February 10, 2013, 1:01 pm

    I take it the great cause for celebration is how this will effect the economy of Ariel and its Jewish inhabitants.

    Because when I read this I think, firstly as a supporter of a two state solution, great because Israel needs jobs in the North and if the government gives incentives to companies to go North, then that, not the territories is where they will go.

    But so will the people. People from the territories can cross into Israel. If the checkpoints are a problem, then probably Israel will develop a fast track pass, like Nexus between the US and Canada.

    But how many jobs were lost in the factory that belonged to Palestinians? If you are successful for example in having Sodastream move its plant, 900 jobs will be lost, all of which come with supplementary health insurance because the local Palestinian system is so lousy.

    Another BDS victory. Sorry, is this really about helping the Palestinians or is it about some twisted morality play in which you get to sit in the US, a country which exploits everyone, use your Chinese built (no labour standard) stuff and be the hero. The great human rights for the little people. Sounds a lot like White Man’s Burden.

    Maybe a win would have been for Univlever to stay and guarantee some investment in the Palestinian areas and employment.

    Gee, wonder if this meets your “guidelines” I mean you are so supportive of free speech – look at your outrage about Brooklyn College.

    We will see. I have never been posted yet.

    • annie
      February 10, 2013, 1:40 pm

      you’ve been posted 3 times judith

      your deep concern for the palestinians people is noted.

      • judithbell
        February 10, 2013, 2:09 pm

        And your deep concern for only the Palestinian people – even when it is clearly against their interests is also noted.

        Tell me, since you wrote the article, who worked for that Univlever plant? Did you research that? I would think if you care about the Palestinians so much, you would have.

      • judithbell
        February 10, 2013, 2:19 pm

        Here Annie, I’ll help you.

        The Palestinians lost approximately 60 jobs.

        But YOU feel like a crusader. (oops. freudian slip!)

      • annie
        February 10, 2013, 3:16 pm

        (oops. freudian slip!)

        watch out there judith, your integrity is showing/not.

      • Cliff
        February 10, 2013, 4:34 pm


        After slavery, slaves got trapped into sharecropping and were kept in poverty. They were ‘free’ but no better off.

        Israel is a colonial power and this is a colonial conflict. Only a Jewish colonist like yourself (or a supporter of Jewish colonialism) would imply that Palestinians care more about working at an Israeli company on their land rather than a step towards their own liberation.

        Name an example of a clean transition from a colonized people to a free people. Name one. Of course there will be Palestinians affected by these sorts of victories, and all throughout history I am sure other oppressed peoples were working for their oppressor (not out of ideology but out of economy and necessity).

        It’s typical for a Zionist to apply absurd standards to non-tribe members. Palestinians are human beings like you and me and they have their own day-to-day decisions to make to survive. A job in the OT at an Israeli company may be necessary for them. And who the hell are you to judge?

      • judithbell
        February 10, 2013, 4:49 pm

        What does that mean?

        (Second time this was posted but it disappeared as did my post to Ejay which was much longer.)

      • Donald
        February 10, 2013, 5:15 pm

        One of the standard arguments made by supporters of apartheid South Africa was that sanctions would hurt the black workers. That was true. The argument made by sanctions supporters was that the ordinary black South African would support sanctions anyway, if it would help end the apartheid system. I don’t know if that’s correct. I also don’t know for sure what ordinary Palestinians think. I doubt you do either.

        So what form of pressure do you think should be placed on Israel, if you are so concerned about Palestinians? Another curious fact about the struggle over apartheid–the supporters of South Africa seemed to oppose anything that might make the apartheid government unhappy, and often couched their argument in terms of how they were really in favor of helping ordinary black South Africans. They’d also point to the bloody near-civil war between the ANC youth and the Inkatha movement in the townships –it later turned out that just as claimed by the ANC at the time, the South African government supported Inkatha. Divide and conquer is a standard strategy for colonialists.

        All this is to say I’m not sure what your real motives are, but you could answer that by stating what policies you think should be followed that would help ordinary Palestinians free themselves of Israeli oppression.

      • annie
        February 10, 2013, 5:23 pm

        judith, re posts that do not cut the mustard. please review our comment policy and the penalty for breaking it (specifically #1 and #2)

        perhaps being appreciative of a moderator who protected you from the penalty would be more appropriate. if you think you’re going to have free reign spamming a 5 day old thread/with repeated inflammatory racists posts, not going to happen. comment moderation is not a democratic endeavor here.

        wrt your question why don’t you clearly spell out what was going thru your mind when you typed your freudian slip, while not breaking the comment policy (#4). then i may answer your query about my response.

      • judithbell
        February 10, 2013, 7:55 pm

        Oh now I get it. What I mean is your position is colonialist. With no cost to yourself, you and your supporters cheer the loss of 60 jobs. It really dehumanizes people and looks at them as objects in a game and not real people with real families.

        And please don’t say this is different than what Cliff posted about me. But if you are going to, show me the distinction.

      • Cliff
        February 11, 2013, 3:30 pm

        ” your supporters cheer the loss of 60 jobs.”


        Name an example of a colonized people who didn’t also serve their colonial masters (out of necessity; such as the 60 Palestinians in the OT).

        I am sure there are more. It’s not out of ideology (as a general point). It’s out of survival to some extent.

        I pointed this out above, but here you are being a crazy person and ignoring my comment and simply REPEATING YOURSELF.

        No one is cheering the firing of 60 Palestinian workers.

        This is a BDS victory. The companies that profit off of the occupation are being targeted. Since Palestinians live in the territories and since they may happen to work at these companies, they may lose their jobs. It’s not the end of the world for them in the long-term. It’s a set-back in the short-term.

        I think if you ask Palestinians what they want – to be free and have their own country OR to work for Zionist fanatics like you who trivialize their suffering by changing the subject to some OTHER issue in some OTHER country or focusing on POINTLESS RHETORICAL debates (‘you’re an American and this was Native American land’/blah blah Darfur/blah blah Sudan) – then I think they would choose the former.

        You have got to be the dumbest hasbarat ever to put forth an argument against BDS based on it’s adverse effects on Palestinians, LOL.

        This absurd standard of yours (and all Zionist liars) – whether it be saying the Palestinians don’t exist because of some arbitrary date where they self-recognized OR because of some other conflict going on elsewhere OR because of the sheer number of rockets fired as opposed to the sheer number of Palestinian civilian casualties murdered by Israel – is ****ing stupid.

        I’d tell you to grow up, but I suspect that you’re an old and ignorant and venomous and bitter, with a world-view that dictates that everything revolved around ‘the Jews’. It really shows.

    • Hostage
      February 10, 2013, 2:28 pm

      I take it the great cause for celebration is how this will effect the economy of Ariel and its Jewish inhabitants. . . . Another BDS victory.

      You got that part right.

      But how many jobs were lost in the factory that belonged to Palestinians?

      I’d love to see your evidence that Palestinians own an interest in Beigel & Beigel, Unilever, or any of the local businesses in Ariel.

      There’s plenty of evidence that Israeli businesses in Palestine don’t comply with Israeli environmental, safety, or health standards. One of the reasons Palestinian workers have a lousy health system is because Israelis have made them pay billions into the Israeli system for benefits they are not entitled to collect under the applicable law, e.g.

    • Cliff
      February 10, 2013, 4:37 pm

      judithbutler said:

      “some twisted morality play in which you get to sit in the US”

      So in other words, because we live in the US and the US does bad things, we should turn a blind eye to Israel’s crimes against humanity, on-going theft of Palestinian land, etc. etc.?

      Sorry, as much as you and your fellow ethno-religious nationalists would love apathy from non-tribe members, we care.

      Human beings aren’t robots. A truism that is silly to acknowledge. But when dealing with such morally depraved and dishonest people on the Internet (behind the wall of anonymity), and in such a polarizing conflict (tribal politics) – these things must preface even more self-evident remarks.

      One crime here, doesn’t justify your crime somewhere else.

      Stupid logic designed specifically by Zionism to whitewash it’s crimes.

  7. yrn
    February 10, 2013, 2:13 pm

    Get some New stuff…..
    BTW Unilever got a 10,000,000 Shekel fund from the government for that move, as it created 250 working places in Safed instead of the Palestinians that used to work in Bagel Bagel Barkan.
    Most Israelis as the Government found this move beneficial, it was funded by the government as it fits the policy to build up working places in Safed.

  8. eljay
    February 10, 2013, 2:51 pm

    >> I take it the great cause for celebration is how this will effect the economy of Ariel and its Jewish inhabitants.

    1. Ariel is an Israeli colony in Palestine. It has no business being in Palestine.
    2. You don’t show concern for the non-Jewish inhabitants of this colony. Why do you hate non-Jewish Israelis?

    >> Maybe a win would have been for Univlever to stay and guarantee some investment in the Palestinian areas and employment.

    The real win is:
    – to end the supremacist “Jewish State” of Israel’s 60+ years, ON-GOING and offensive (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder;
    – to get Israel back to within its / Partition borders;
    – to hold Israel and Zio-supremacists accountable for their past and current and ON-GOING (war) crimes; and
    – to transform Israel from an oppressive and supremacist “Jewish State” into a secular, democratic and egalitarian Israeli state, a state of and for all Israelis, equally.

  9. Cliff
    February 10, 2013, 4:38 pm

    This is excellent news. Another nail in the coffin of Israeli Apartheid.

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