I Was Given a Bottle of Wine Made in the Settlements as a Gift – Should I Drink It?

‘I would never buy a gift from the settlement of Har Bracha: not for my employees, not for my friends and certainly not for myself.’

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Zion Winery wine, from a West Bank winery
Zion Winery wine, from a West Bank wineryCredit: Ariel Schalit / AP

Dear Haaretz,

A friend received a bottle of wine from the Har Bracha Winery from his workplace and passed it on to me as a gift. I would never buy a gift from the settlement of Har Bracha, not for my employees, not for my friends and certainly not for myself. What should I do with it?

Non-Jewish Wine

Dear Non-Jewish Wine,

The answer to your question seems relatively simple, but I would first like to give some background to our readers. Wine from the settlements is problematic not only because of where it is produced, but because it is a concentrated cocktail of astringency and massive land grabbing. When Israelis think about the taking over of Palestinian land they usually think about the building of settlements with their red roofs and surrounding electrical fences.

Har Bracha. An illusion of rural innocence.Credit: \ Moti Milrod

In fact, the flourishing Israeli agriculture in the West Bank serves as further entrenchment in the land and enhances the expansion of the areas around the settlements no less than any house added there. As explained in a 2013 report by Dror Etkes from Kerem Navot, an anti-occupation group that focuses on land dispossession: “Israel’s agricultural lands in the West Bank, now covering 23,000 acres (as opposed to built-up areas which cover 14,800 acres, not including East Jerusalem), are a central feature of the civilian apparatus created there by Israel in the decades following 1967. Its relative weight is rapidly growing. Since 1997 settlers have taken over 6,000 acres through their agricultural activity. Almost half of this land is privately-owned Palestinian land, lying close to settlements and outposts on the central ridge of the West Bank.” Har Bracha lies precisely along this ridge.

The declared purpose of expanding these agricultural lands, for the settlers and the state, is to enlarge the portions of Area C that are controlled by settlers in order to prevent these lands’ return in the framework of a future peace deal (even if it now seems this will never happen). Agricultural land is ideal for this purpose: It requires fewer resources than the construction of real estate and creates an illusion of rural innocence. “Wherever you plant there, the scenery will resemble Tuscany; there is something in those long green rows of vines that re-paints the landscape in optimistic colors,” journalist Ben Shani noted in an investigative TV report on settlement vineyards in 2009.

An Israeli worker inspects barrels in a winery in the West Bank settlement of Psagot.Credit: אי־פי

In contrast to construction in illegal outposts, where the Civil Administration issues demolition orders even though it doesn’t enforce them, when agricultural land is grabbed there isn’t even a semblance of enforcement. In the meantime, in a mirror image of this expansion, Palestinian farmers are losing land in large quantities, since access to their plots is blocked in many ways. So behind the fake Tuscan landscape, every wine bottle from the settlements is the product of large-scale dispossession and expulsion.

Given the above, it’s obvious why anyone opposing the settlement enterprise – indeed, any moral person – would prefer to abstain from buying wine produced by one of these wineries. However, in your case, it’s not a matter of purchasing the wine, but of a bottle you received as a gift from a friend who got it from work (by the way, tell your friend to invest a bit more in the relationship, a gift of a bottle from the office is not serious). Throwing the bottle away would be wasteful and ecologically wrong, and quite silly from an ideological standpoint. Giving it to someone else would be hypocritical and could be interpreted as supportive of the settlement wineries, unless you were to tell the recipient why this wine is immoral while giving them the bottle, and then you would just look like an idiot.

In short, sometimes you don’t have to make a big deal out of it. Opening this particular bottle won’t increase the sales of the winery you wish to boycott, so just drink it and be done with it. But only do so when you are alone in the dark or in the company of your family, not with guests, so as not to give the impression that you support the settlements and risk losing your leftist identity, heaven forbid!

If you don’t know how to behave in a certain situation, if you need friendly advice but you’ve already driven all your sane friends away or if you’ve got the kind of embarrassing question that can only be asked anonymously, send a mail to: mechlak.musar@gmail.com.

Our answers will be generous and honest – but should not be seen as a replacement for professional consultations. Obviously.

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