The Israeli wine industry remains deeply complicit in the occupation of Palestinian and Syrian land. Dozens of wineries are based in and around Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan. Many wineries located within the Green Line, including some of the largest commercial wineries in the Israeli market, use grapes originating from occupied land in their wines.
This update highlights recent developments in the Israeli wine sector, including the expansion of wine tourism and foreign export markets. All corporate profiles of complicit wineries have been updated.
The Israeli wine industry remains deeply complicit in the occupation of Palestinian and Syrian land. Dozens of wineries are based in and around Israeli settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan, taking up occupied land and water resources and contributing to the economic life of the settlements. Many wineries located within the Green Line, including four of the largest commercial wineries, use grapes sourced from occupied land in their wines, often while obscuring their settlement origins.
This update revisits the Israeli wine industry, which Who Profits investigated in depth in a 2011 report titled Forbidden Fruit: The Israeli Wine Industry and the Occupation. The report identified several ways in which Israeli wineries are complicit in, and profit from, the Israeli occupation. In the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), settlers use the planting of vineyards as a means of seizing public and private Palestinian land. Settlement wineries and growers also benefit from government support in the form of grants, subsidies and benefits. In both the oPt and the occupied Syrian Golan, wine tourism serves as an effective tool of normalization. Finally, the report exposed the principal ways in which the origin of grapes from vineyards in occupied territory is masked or concealed, including a politically motivated re-drawing of wine regions in Israel, which deliberately obscures the occupied regions (so that the Syrian Golan, for example, is part of the ‘North’ region).
All forms of involvement detailed in the 2011 report continue to be relevant. This update will therefore focus on recent developments in the Israeli wine sector, including the introduction and growth of new foreign export markets, the expansion of settlement wine tourism, and new tax benefits and government grants to settlement wineries. It also contains links to the updated profiles of all complicit wineries on Who Profits’ database. Two new companies, Recanati Winery and Jerusalem Wineries, have been added.
Prior to publication, Who Profits contacted all the wineries profiled herein. The responses of Shiloh Winery, Assaf Winery and Binyamina Winery are annexed to the update. No additional responses were received. A response from the Israeli Ministry of Tourism regarding a 2017 grant to a winery in the occupied Golan is also included.
Settlers with Benefits
Israeli wineries and vineyards are eligible for various forms of institutional support from the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture. On 13 March 2017, the Israeli government approved Resolution No. 2494, “Administrative Agreement for the Awarding of Grants for the Encouragement of Capital Investments in Agriculture to Individuals with Income Produced or Grown in the Territory.” According to the new administrative agreement, Israeli citizens residing on both sides of the Green Line with income produced or grown in the West Bank would be eligible for Ministry of Agriculture grants awarded under the Law for the Encouragement of Capital Investments in Agriculture, 1980. Prior to the passage of the resolution, benefits to settler farmers were awarded through administrative grants. The resolution, however, eliminates the distinction between Israeli farmers in Area C of the occupied West Bank and their counterparts within the Green Line with respect to tax benefits eligibility.
Settlement wineries also receive support from the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry. In August 2018, the Israeli Authority for Investments approved three new investment plans totaling 19 million NIS, 4 million of which are in the form of Ministry of Economy grants. Two of the recipients are located in the West Bank. The first is Shiloh Winery, a private Israeli winery based in the industrial zone of the settlement of Shiloh. The winery’s approved investment plan totals 4.97 million NIS (nearly a million in the form of a grant). The plan, which involves the creation of a new manufacturing facility, is expected to lead to a growth of nearly 8 million NIS in the company’s annual revenues. According to the Ministry’s news release, the second grantee, Antipod Investments, based in Kiryat Arba settlement, was awarded a 5 million NIS investment plan (a million in the form of a grant) to relocate, upgrade and expand its factory. The plan is expected to lead to a growth of 4.5 million NIS in the company’s annual revenues, half of which is designated for export.
Other grants approved in recent years include a 497,364 NIS governmental grant from the Ministry of Tourism to Assaf Winery in the Syrian Golan to establish 11 vacation suites in Kidmat Zvi settlement in 2017, as well as a 15,363,000 NIS grant to Jerusalem Wineries from the Investments Authority to expand its winery in the Atarot I.Z. settlement industrial zone, which will involve the creation of 10 new jobs.
New Export Markets
Since 2009, Israeli wine exports rose by 118%. In 2017, wine exports amounted to 47.178 million USD. North America continues to represent the largest export market for Israeli wines, accounting for 66% of exports in 2017 (up 14%) and totaling 31 million USD. However, Asia was the fastest growing export market. Though it currently represents only 5% of total Israeli wine exports, it rose by 19% in 2017.
The emergence of Asian markets as new and fast-growing wine markets is a global trend. Over the next five years, China is expected to become the world’s second largest wine market after the United States. Israeli wineries and government institutes alike are directing significant resources into tapping into these markets, organizing wine fairs and delegations.
Between 2011 and 2016, Israeli wine exports to China rose by 96%. In 2017, Hayotzer Winery, located in the Mishor Adumim settlement industrial zone in the West Bank, signed a preliminary agreement with the China-based Pen Dun Group to jointly build an 8 million USD winery in the Hubei province in China. In Japan, Israel is the 17th supplier of wines, with exports rising by 145% from 2014 to 2015. Last year, the Israel Export Institute hosted Japanese journalists and wine experts and organized wine events in cities in Japan featuring Israeli wineries.
Exports to the European Union and Latin America declined between 2016 and 2017 by 4% and 12% respectively.
Touring Settlement Wines
Tourism has become an important dimension of the Israeli wine industry, with small, medium and large wineries operating visitor centers and offering wine tastings and guided tours to international and domestic tourists. On occupied land, wine-based tourism provides an additional source of income and functions as an effective tool of normalization.
The Ministry of Tourism invests regularly in tourism infrastructure, with an emphasis on “niche” tourism, which includes wine tourism. In 2014, its tourism development budget reached 180 million NIS. Agricultural tourist attractions in the West Bank and the Syrian Golan, such as Gush Ezion Winery and Psagot Winery, are also advertised on the official website of the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture.
Online booking and travel companies play an increasingly central role in promoting tourism-related content. As is the case with other settlement businesses, settlement wineries have tapped into the emerging sphere of digital tourism platforms, such as booking.com and TripAdvisor, using them as marketing tools to attract local and global tourists. As Who Profits has exposed elsewhere, these platforms often present settlement tourist attractions as located “in Israel,” misleading consumers and obscuring the illegality of the settlement enterprise.
 As of 2016, five wineries accounted for 80 percent of the Israeli wine market: Barkan Winery (including Segal), Carmel Wineries, Golan Heights Winery, Teperberg 1870 and Binyamina Winery. Hadar Kane, “What Israel Must Do to Become a Wine Superpower,” Haaretz, haaretz.com, 23 September 2016.
 Prime Minister’s Office, “Resolution No. 2494: Administrative Agreement for the Awarding of Grants for the Encouragement of Capital Investments in Agriculture to Individuals with Income Produced or Grown in the Territory” (Hebrew), gov.il, 13.3.2017.
 “The Ministry of Economy and Industry continues to invest in the wine sector” (Hebrew), Grants and Benefits to Industrialists, gov.il, 6 August 2018.
 “Projects Approved in 2017” (Hebrew), Ministry of Tourism, gov.il. In a response to a letter from Who Profits, Assaf Winery acknowledged the approval of the grant but stated that the winery and the family decided not to accept the support. In response to a Freedom of Information request by Who Profits, the Ministry of Tourism stated that “The request of ‘Assaf Winery’ for a grant for the construction of a vacation rental was approved last year. As it concerns a long construction procedure, the approval was granted for 5 years, with the money transfer conditioned upon execution on the ground, in phases and in accordance with proven execution. So far, no request has been received from the grantee ‘Assaf Winery’ regarding execution on the ground and the realization of the budget accordingly.” The full responses from Assaf Winery and the Ministry of Tourism can be found at the end of this update.
 “Approved Grants – 2016” (Hebrew), Ministry of Economy, gov.il, 22 June 2017. Who Profits contacted Jerusalem Wineries but has not received a response.
 “Export and import, according to goods and countries – annual figures” (Hebrew) Central Bureau of Statistics, cbs.gov.il
 Koren, Ora, “The Israelis that will help the Chinese to establish a winery and produce wine” (Hebrew), TheMarker, 31 August 2017.