After outcry, alternative wine guide to include settlement booze

Book pushed by right-wing lawmakers Kisch and Smotrich after earlier publication left settler vino out of reviews

Barrels at an Israeli winery in the West Bank settlement of Psagot, February 11, 2014. (AP/ Dan Balilty/File)
Barrels at an Israeli winery in the West Bank settlement of Psagot, February 11, 2014. (AP/ Dan Balilty/File)

A pair of right-winger lawmakers are looking to turn whine into wine with a guide to vino produced in the West Bank, after a group of settlement vintners cried foul over being left off another guide.

The guide is being spearheaded by nationalist MKs Yoav Kisch and Bezalel Smotrich, who head the so-called Caucus for Eretz Yisrael, as a countermeasure to the “New Israeli Wine Guide,” which was criticized last week for leaving settlement wineries out, in what some termed an internal boycott.

The “New Israeli Wine Guide,” written by Israel Hayom wine reporter Yair Gat and Gal Zohar, a former wine curator in London who is employed as a consultant by a number of Tel Aviv restaurants, announced that they would not include wines made in West Bank settlements.

Speaking to Channel 2, Vered Ben Saadon, owner of the Tura Winery in the settlement of Rehelim, south of Nablus, said that “she was delighted that the issue gathered attention and that there would be a concrete change regarding wines produced in the settlements with the publication of the new guide.”

The number of wineries in the West Bank is growing rapidly as it is considered to be an ideal area for growing grapes. Several of the wineries have won prestigious international prizes for their products.

But some outside of Israel see the wines, one of the only major export industries among Israeli West Bank settlements, as laden with the freighted politics of the West Bank, where Palestinians hope to establish a state.

Israeli officials have been fighting in recent months a European Union effort to label goods from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights, saying it amounts to a boycott.

German department store KaDeWe came under fire last month for pulling Golan Heights wines off the shelves, with some Israeli officials alleging anti-Semitism. The store later restocked the wines and said it had acted too rashly.

In response to the decision to publish the alternative guide, Kisch (Likud) stated that he couldn’t accept the exclusion of West Bank wines.

“Instead of excluding the settlements, we will enlarge them and fight for them in any way possible,” he said.

Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, has made a point of sending holiday greeting packages from the embassy that include Israeli products made in the West Bank and Golan Heights.

“This holiday season, I decided to send a gift that would also help combat the latest effort by Israel’s enemies to destroy the one and only Jewish state,” Dermer wrote in a letter posted to Twitter, referring to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

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