Grape success

Israeli winery sells out thanks to Dutch boycott supporter

Activist’s Twitter comment mistakenly says Efrat wine is produced in the West Bank; Israel supporters rush to buy bottles

Cnaan Liphshiz is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

Damien Zeller, one of the people who rushed out to by a bottle of Israeli wine in the Netherlands, March 2019. (Courtesy Damien Zeller, via JTA)
Damien Zeller, one of the people who rushed out to by a bottle of Israeli wine in the Netherlands, March 2019. (Courtesy Damien Zeller, via JTA)

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — As a supporter of boycotting Israel, Mieke Zagt had no intention of marketing Israeli wine when she tweeted a picture of bottles on sale at the Dutch supermarket chain, Hema.

But her tweet, meant to protest the sale, prompted Israel supporters in the Netherlands to mount a social media reaction so successful that the wines sold out at the Hema stores and the campaign became the No. 1 trending topic Tuesday on Dutch Twitter.

The opening shot for the #tipvanMieke campaign was a tweet that Zagt, a scholar and Electronic Intifada contributor with fewer than 1,300 followers on Twitter, posted Monday afternoon.

“Hey, Hema, you’re selling Efrat wine from Judean Hills [as] made in Israel. Is this possible? Efrat and Judean Hills are in occupied Palestinian land. Efrat is an illegal Israeli colony. Can you verify the origin? #hema #notAgainAye!??” Zagt wrote, attaching a picture of the bottles in question.

Despite its name, the wine is not from disputed territory. The Efrat Winery is one of Israel’s oldest and is located at Kibbutz Tzora near the town of Beit Shemesh, inside Israel’s internationally recognized boundaries.

But Zagt’s tweet ended in more than a geography lesson.

Gideon van der Sluis, a Dutch-born Israeli business consultant, and several other pro-Israel advocates began engaging on Twitter with like-minded users about Zagt’s tweet, labeling it with a hashtag meaning “TipFromMieke.” Within 24 hours it became the top-trending item on Dutch Twitter, with people from around the country using it with pictures of freshly bought Efrat wine bottles.

Within hours, both red and white Efrat wines were sold out from Hema’s online store. The chain has 525 stores in the Netherlands.

The Israeli wine shelf (photo credit: Sophie Gordon/Flash 90)
The Israeli wine shelf (photo credit: Sophie Gordon/Flash 90)

The social network campaign seems to have originated with the hard core of Israel’s supporters — van der Sluis’s efforts to get it to take off were joined by those of Hidde J. van Koningsveld, who heads the CiJo pro-Israel group. But it seemed to reach far beyond the usual suspects from the Netherlands’ Jewish community which numbers some 40,000.

Menno de Bruyne, a chief strategist for the Reformed Political Party, had a colleague post a picture of de Bruyne at the office with three Efrat Wine bottles.

Sjoukje Dijkstra, a journalist from Utrecht, wrote on Twitter: “Thanks for the tip! Straight to Hema!”

Henk Bakboord, a dancer and activist for the Jimmy Nelson Foundation for documenting indigenous cultures, also sarcastically thanked Zagt, adding that the Hema store at Amsterdam’s Oostpoort neighborhood still has Efrat wines “but they are selling out fast.”

They began selling even faster after Christians for Israel, an international group whose headquarters is just outside Amsterdam, posted an article on its website and Facebook page encouraging its many thousands of readers and supporters to buy Efrat Wines.

Christians for Israel brings in 120,000 bottles of Israeli wine each year through the Israel Products Center, its own import agency.

Yanki Jacobs, a rabbi from Amsterdam who runs Chabad on Campus, said he was “delighted” at how the campaign turned out.

“It’s a pleasure to see, just a few days after Purim, something bad turning into something good,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

But Zagt had a different perspective. On Twitter, she seemed to suggest that the people mocking her were engaged in “intimidation and defamation.” Her hecklers, she added, “are showing their real Twitter nature,“ which she called “very disturbing.”

Zagt did not reply to JTA’s request for comment on Twitter.

Hema has declined to say how many bottles were sold, citing its policy. But the chain acknowledged that many of its branches, as well as its online store, have run out of Efrat wine.

Most Popular
read more: