'Jewish Flour' Mill in Central Israel Hit With Discrimination Lawsuit

Owner of mill, which labels its products as being produced 'only by Hebrew workers,' allegedly threatened complainant that he'll 'see to it the word goes out that you don’t buy Hebrew products.'

Illustration: Flour.
© Christian Draghici | Dreamstime.com - Wheat, grain and flour

A farm in a Carmel Mountain moshav has filed a complaint at the Haifa Magistrate’s Court against a Hadera flour mill which labels its products as being produced “only by Hebrew [i.e. Jewish] workers.” The petition requests that these products be removed from store shelves.

The owner of the farm claims that the flour mill has been harming his revenues after he lodged the complaint.

“We’re quite a large farm, and we started working with this mill last February,” Joel Blumenberg told Haaretz. His farm, in Moshav Ofer, sells organic produce he grows as well as other items. At some point he and some of his customers noticed the labels on packages of flour coming from the Minhat Haaretz mill.

“I approached one of the mill’s owners and inquired what the labels mean. I don’t remember his exact words but he dismissed me, saying that he only employs friends and family members. I talked to him again, telling him I couldn’t continue selling products with that label, and thought things ended there.”

However, he started receiving emails from the flour mill, including one saying that “undoubtedly you aren’t worthy of receiving our flour and I hope your business fails and that you remain at the mercy of your beloved Arab friends. I’ll see to it that the word goes out that you don’t buy Hebrew products. Know that you are a dwindling minority in this country, and by God’s grace may you repent your deeds.”

In a further email that day the mill owner partly apologized and said: “I apologize for wishing that you fail and for wishing that you remain at the mercy of Arabs, because that’s the last thing they would ever grant you. I hope you learn to appreciate Hebrew work and become proud of belonging to your nation and homeland, instead of boycotting Jews who are your brethren.”

Blumenberg said that things didn’t stop there. “A few days later I was inundated with SMS’s and WhatsApp messages, Facebook postings and phone calls, attacking me for boycotting Minhat Haaretz and saying that they would now organize a boycott against me in Pardes Hannah, Harish and other areas, making sure no one buys from me anymore.” He says that among these were long-time customers. All this led to a significant drop in his revenues.

He turned to the Economy Ministry last August through his lawyer Ron Berant, but has received no response to date other than a letter confirming the receipt of his letter. After five months without any response he filed a petition against Minhat Haaretz, based on anti-discrimination laws. He says that “the mill’s owners don’t conceal the fact that work is performed only by Jewish employees as a matter of policy and that they deem it important to publicize this fact everywhere, including on the packaging of their products, which are marketed in public places and on the Internet.”

In the petition, Blumenberg says that “the behavior of the subjects of this petition has caused serious damage to my livelihood and my right to make a dignified living, a constitutional right enshrined in Israel’s Basic Laws.”

Blumenberg said that he has been operating his farm for 10 years and has never encountered such a phenomenon. “I was born in Switzerland and grew up there as an ultra-Orthodox Jew. I would never agree to someone writing that only Christian labor went into a product. That could never happen there.”

Attorney Moti Yosef, representing Minhat Haaretz, called the petition “irritating, almost hallucinatory. While the petition is based on anti-discrimination laws regarding products, services and entry to places of entertainment and public places, the claim is that writing ‘Hebrew labor’ on a flour package constitutes a civil injustice. But the above-mentioned laws says that the injustice claim can only be made against those refusing to provide a product or service. My client is discriminating against no one.”

Berant said that “as attorneys and citizens we see it as our duty not to accept racist and discriminatory behavior. Being a lawyer includes taking an active role in efforts to create a healthy egalitarian society here.”

The Economy Ministry responded by saying that “after looking into the legal aspects of this case we’ve decided to approach the mill together with our legal enforcement department. We’ll be writing to them in the coming days and will update you when we receive a reply.”