Palestine Jan 2013 : A new BDS target in the Jordan Valley: Hishtil
Carmel-Agrexco was Israels main agricultural export company, exporting 70% of all fresh produce from Israels illegal settlements, until September 2011, when it was formally liquidated. Formerly state-owned, Agrexco has been privately purchased by Bickel Flowers and, according to Who Profits?, has regained a significant proportion of its former market.
However, Agrexcos misfortunes have left space for other companies to move into Agrexcos export business from the occupied Jordan Valley, where the majority of the West Banks agricultural produce is grown. In the Mehola settlement in the Northern Jordan Valley, Agrexco packing houses, which were active when Corporate Watch visited in 2010, are now standing dormant.
Mehadrin-Tnuport Export Company has largely stepped into the vacuum left by Agrexco (see our recent article about Mehadrin). But when visiting the Jordan Valley settlements, it is apparent that a range of smaller companies are also expanding their business there.
One such company is Hishtil, an Israeli company established in 1974 which boasts that it is a market leader in the world of advanced horticultural nurseries and has established a global nurseries network with joint venture nurseries in Turkey, Italy, South Africa Bulgaria, France and Bosnia. The company's website also advertises projects in Greece, Russia, the Canary Islands, Guatemala and Honduras.
Hishtils corporate image video states the company exports vegetables, herbs, flowering annuals and herbaceous perennials to international markets, as well as conducting research and development for plant nurseries including climate controls for greenhouses.
We conduct our operations while strictly maintaining values of integrity, it claims. However, Hishtil is complicit in the settlement expansion which, backed up by military action, is threatening the existence of Palestinian communities. Hishtil has its head office at Moshav Nehalim in 1948 Israel but it clearly sources its produce from growers in illegal Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley.
Corporate Watch visited the settlement of Almog in the Southern Jordan Valley on 12th January 2013 and photographed Hishtil signage in several of the greenhouses where Aubergines were being grown (see photos here).
On the same day, Corporate Watch researchers visited the Mehola settlement in the Northern Jordan Valley, where Hishtil has a packing house. Who Profits also reports that Hishtil has a nursery in the settlement of Susya in the South Hebron hills.
Hishtils operations in Susya. Mehola and Almog are adding financial viability to the expansion of settlements, which are causing the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian communities. On 16th January, Israeli forces destroyed several structures belonging to the Bedouin community of Deir Hajla and Al Zur, close to Almog. The following day the Israeli military declared a closed military zone around the community of Al Maleh, close to the Mehola settlement, and destroyed 55 buildings, leaving the residents of Al Maleh to sleep in the open. The Palestinian village of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills, next to the Israeli settlement of the same name, has experienced countless demolitions during the last three decades (such as this demolition on 1st December 2012). This ethnic cleansing of communities in Area C can only benefit Hishtil.
Despite its business in illegal Israeli settlements, Hishtil boasts that it has been certified up to several internationally recognised standards, including ISO 9001:2008, GLOBAL GAP, and several organic standards including USDA Organic (see here). One opportunity for BDS campaigners may be to challenge the renewal of this certification on the basis of the company's business with the settlements.
Hishtil is clearly looking to grow as an international corporation. Its current international operations listed on its website are:
Centro Seia srl
Via Palestro 241
tel - 39-932 914011
Hishtil South Africa - PTY
tel - 27-153954034, fax - 27153954010
Hishtil South Africa website: www.hishtilsa.com
Fidecilik Sanayi vi Ticaret a.s
Tekke Koyu gebiz yolu 10. km
tel +90 242 7174045
Hishtil Adria (nursery under construction)
It is significant that these are joint operations. It may be possible for campaigners to pressure Hishtils international partners to end their relationships with Hishtil.
Hishtils vision is to become a leading and innovative nursery firm, globally. It is the BDS movement's job to make sure that the companys dreams never come true. For instance, Hishtil is promoting itself at several international exhibitions during 2013. These international publicity exercises are a chance for BDS activists to take action against them. The details of the exhibitions can be found at the link below.