Mondoweiss / November 17, 2021
A new market has opened up for Israeli weapons and settlement products — the United Arab Emirates.
Activists in Vancouver, who have worked for over a decade on the Boycott Israeli Wines campaign, were recently taken aback to discover that a new market for Israeli settlement wines had opened up in the United Arab Emirates UAE. This was apparently one of the dividends of the “normalization” agreements, or Abraham Accords, that are now over a year old and are fueling greater Israeli-UAE economic ties. Dividends of betraying the Palestinian people and profiting from their suffering.
Be it Dubai Ports World bidding to build ports in Haifa, or illegal Israeli settlement wines being imported into the Emirates, or members of the Dubai royal family visiting the Israel Aerospace Industries pavilion at Expo 2020, or the newly-launched Elbit Systems Emirates, these connections continue to surface. The Israeli Finance Ministry’s deputy chief economist, Lev Drucker, reportedly “sees a potential for more substantial trade levels between the countries, starting at $2 billion and building up to $6.5 billion once cooperation matures”, although financial analysts are more conservative in their estimates.
And it is now evident that allowing this cooperation to “mature” means that there are no barriers to economic trade. Not violations of international law that forbid profiteering off the resources of an occupied people, and not the stained history of the Israeli military industry that literally has the blood of Palestinian and Arab civilians on its hands.
After the Abraham Accords were announced last year, Israeli media was abuzz with reports that Dubai based FAM Holdings had inked a deal with settler company representatives to import wine, tahina, olive oil and honey. Settler Council leader Yossi Dagan was center stage at the signing ceremony in Dubai; his effusive comments at the time bragged about these new economic ties, repeatedly insisting on using the “Samaria” designation for the occupied West Bank:
“We are opening a new economic page between the best companies in Samaria and FAM. I am very excited and happy with their standing,” he said. “Samaria strives to lead in all areas, and also in export and business development,” Dagan said. “The Samaria area that I represent is located in the Israeli state’s heartland.”
“Now it can be revealed: We signed a special cooperation agreement on the distribution of Tura wines and [olive] oils across the UAE,” the company wrote on its Facebook page, together with several pictures of co-owner Vered Ben Sa’adon shaking hands with her new business partner at the signing ceremony in Dubai. “Straight from Rechelim in Israel to the UAE — history!”
Not to be outdone, the head of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce clarified that “the United Arab Emirates has no issue with importing Israeli products manufactured in the West Bank, as it will help boost the Palestinian economy (sic!)…We are an open market in every sense of the word”.
Reportedly, bottles from the Golan Heights Winery, in illegally occupied and annexed Syrian territory, were the first to hit store shelves in Dubai. Yair Shapira, CEO of the Golan Heights Winery, said a year ago that “we are excited to be the Israeli winery that will ‘open the gate’ and introduce the residents and guests of the UAE in Dubai to the Israeli wine industry.” Despite the recent visit of the UAE Foreign Minister to Damascus, it would seem legitimizing Israeli theft of Arab land is still very much “business as usual” for the Emirates.
Profiteering off Israeli war crimes and apartheid is morally wrong; activists should not even have to explain to these governments that they are aiding and abetting the pillage of Palestinian and Arab property and resources, which is expressly forbidden in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
However, the tide is turning; all those complicit, be they Arab despotic regimes or duplicitous Western governments and officials, will be held accountable for enabling Israel’s long and bloody history of dispossession of the Palestinians. The Palestinians, and their supporters, will never forget who stood on the wrong side of history and made a mockery of their human rights.
Marion Kawas is a long-time pro-Palestinian activist, a member of BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish and cohost of Voice of Palestine