Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Holland: In face of labeling push, Dutch Christians hawking Israeli settlement goods

JTA reports:

Pieter van Oordt, left, with his brother,
Roger, at the Israel Products Center in Nijkerk
(Cnaan Liphshiz)
As a boy, Pieter van Oordt would often accompany his father, Karel, on the elder van Oordt’s weekly shopping excursions specifically seeking out products made in Israel.

A Christian Zionist businessman in Amersfoort, some 25 miles east of Amsterdam, Karel van Oordt sought to strengthen the Jewish state economically by purchasing its exports to feed his family of eight. But it wasn’t easy.

“At the greengrocer, my father asked for Jaffa oranges, but they didn’t offer those,” Pieter van Oordt recalled. “Then at the liquor store, dad asked for Israeli wines. Same reply.”

Four decades later, those Israeli goods and thousands more are available across the Netherlands thanks to the international advocacy group founded by Karel van Oordt in 1979. Pieter and his brother, Roger, have run Christians for Israel since their father’s death in 2013.

Through its own import agency, the Israel Products Center, or IPC, the organization brings in 120,000 bottles of Israeli wine each year, as well as many tons of Dead Sea cosmetics and other merchandise. Most of the products are sold in IPC’s own store, on its website or by a corps of 200 volunteer door-to-door sales agents, a majority of them women.

The effort is unique in Europe, and not only because IPC profits are distributed annually among a small group of shareholders who reinvest the money back into the business. Also because IPC openly promotes the sale of settlement goods, part of a conscious effort to bolster the settler movement and push back against European efforts to distinguish them from goods produced in Israel proper.

Last month, in a letter in the company’s new catalog, Pieter van Oordt, who runs IPC, specifically urged his customers to purchase two brands of wine, dates and olive products produced in the West Bank.

Workers installing a 36-foot menorah outside the Dutch headquarters of Christians for Israel, December 2013. (Courtesy of Christians for Israel)
“Now the government wants to say on our products that they’re not from Israel,” said Pieter van Oordt, referring to the adoption in November of EU regulations mandating that goods produced in Israeli settlements are labeled as originating in Palestinian territory. “So we must tell our customers that it’s not true.”

Most IPC customers probably agree with van Oordt. The company’s most dedicated patrons are ideological supporters of the Christians for Israel movement, which is popular among European Protestants who believe it is their religious and moral duty to help Jews return to their ancestral lands.

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