The following is a newsletter article that David Sokal, owner of Olive Branch Enterprises, importer, bottler and distributor of Peace Oil, wrote for a Seattle church which is partnered with a church in Nazareth. Peace Oil is a for-profit, ethical business which imports Palestinian and Israeli olive oil to the US thus encouraging the two peoples to work together in a mutually beneficial business partnership. The American product, Peace Oil, should not be confused with a similar but entirely independent product also called Peace Oil marketed in Great Britain. I hope you’ll visit David’s site and make a holiday purchase (I know I’m a little late on that):
Hidden in the hills in the northern
Galileeregion of is the small Arab-Israeli Israel . Raineh is next door to the much better known town of villageof Raineh , Jesus’ childhood home. The Nazareth metropolitan area, which includes Raineh, is home to 100,000 Arab citizens of Nazareth . Raineh itself is home to 15,300 people, 80% Arab Muslim, 19.3% Arab Christian and the remainder Druze Arab. Raineh is also the home to The Holy Family Episcopal Church. Israel
A mere 9,000 miles away is St. Andrews Episcopal Church ensconced in the very comfortable, middle-class American neighborhood of Greenlake. Assuming
is similar to the Seattle in religious composition, it is closer to 70% Christian and 1% Muslim. Quite the opposite of Raineh. US
As different as the climates, demographics, cultures, politics and even flora and fauna may be from
to Raineh, inside the walls of these two churches are a shared set of values and beliefs that link the congregants together across time and space. Seattle
itself, the separation between Jews and Arabs is ever present. In the Israel Galileethere are Jewish towns and Arab towns. In the large cities, there are Jewish sections and Arab sections. Of course there are exceptions. is relatively integrated and there is the remarkable small Haifa where Jews and Arabs live side-by-side. villageof Neve Shalom
This is not to say that Jews and Arabs never have positive, normal interactions in the streets, buses, stores and other public spaces. There are also close bonds between Jews and Arabs who meet through work or in more integrated neighborhoods. Almost half of
’s Jews are from Arab countries and are very familiar with Arabic culture and maintain many of its traditions. It is important to note that to this day, mizrachi Jews, (Jews from Arab countries) are still disproportionately poor compared to their European Jewish brothers and sisters. Israel
The ultimate separation between Jews and Palestinian Arabs is represented by the barrier wall that meanders along the pre-1967 border of
occasionally wandering outside of that line and slicing through Israel West Banktowns, cutting off families from loved ones, neighbors from each other, and farmers from their farmlands. Most Israelis recognize the problematic nature of this barrier, but also point out that since it has been built suicide bombings have stopped almost entirely.
Despite the intractable nature of the conflict, literally thousands of Jewish Israelis and Palestinian Arabs are beginning to build bridges across this gulf. Efforts at rapprochement have been made by the more open-minded members of both cultures from early on in this historic struggle over the land. But now it seems these efforts are expanding more rapidly than in the past.
…Also, there are successful commercial ventures that mutually benefit both communities. Peaceworks, started by a Russian Jew named Daniel Lubetzky has been selling food products made by Palestinian processors since 1994. Their original line of Mediterranean condiments was humorously dubbed, “Moshe and Ali.” Daniel has been heavily re-investing his profits in the One Voice Movement and successfully encouraging other wealthy donors to support this cause as well.
Recently, Fareed Zakaria, host of PBS’s “Foreign Exchange” covered the agreement between Dr. Bonners Magic Soap and two fair trade groups in
and Israel . Dr. Bonners is a Palestine company that was started by a German Jewish immigrant in the 1920s. They make high-quality, organic soap. They have agreed to buy olive oil for use in their soap from Canaan Fair Trade, a cooperative of Palestinian farmers based in the US West Bank, and from Sindyanna of Galilee a group of Arab and Jewish women.
On a much smaller scale, but closer to home, David Sokal has started Olive Branch Enterprises here in
. He also buys olive oil from Sindyanna and Canaan Fair Trade, as well as Green Action Israel. He bottles and sells the oil as Peace Oil. Seattle
Peace Oil has been enthusiastically supported at
St. AndrewsEpiscopal. The outpouring of generosity goes well beyond a love for good olive oil. It comes from the deep yearning to reach out to those that are suffering due to conflict and violence. This yearning has the power to heal and close the gulf created by fear and resentment.
As sister church to The Holy Family Episcopal Church in Raineh,
St. Andrewsin has a spiritual connection to the people of Seattle and Israel . Now with a little olive oil from the Palestine Holy Land, that connection is consecrated.
I hope you’ll visit David’s website, www.peaceoil.biz, and make a purchase. It is an excellent gift for the holiday season or any other occasion. You’ll also enjoy using it in your own kitchen.
As most of us have learned by now, there is “peace” and “peace process”, and then there is justice.
This oil might not be as peaceful as it seems.
“The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the UK branch of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and the Inter-Faith Group for Morally Responsible Investment, have written to church and charity groups urging them to promote Palestinian olive oil rather than Peace Oil.”
“‘As an Israeli-based product, albeit with some Palestinian input, Peace Oil faces none of these limitations,’ the groups said in a joint statement.”
Zaytoun on the other hand is a true Palestinian cooperative that has been trying to market Palestinian olive oil for years. They have a number of distributors in the U.S., Candada, and Britain. I hightly recommend it. You can be sure that your money will be going into the Palestinian economy. It’s not a huge market — I urge Mr. Sokal to devote his energies to helping them out.
Richard Silverstein says
NOTE: I wrote the following before realizing that commenter David had made the honest mistake of believing that the English product, Peace Oil is the same as the American product, Peace Oil. It is not. The English product is offered at this website. The American product is offered by David Sokal based in Seattle. From what I can tell (& David Sokal can clarify this) they are two entirely different products though perhaps with similar goals. So please judge Sokal’s product on its terms and not on those used to evaluate the British product of the same name.
I’m sorry David, but either yr comment or the stance of the groups quoted in the Guardian is preposterous. This is a perfect example of the pro-Palestinian left eating its young.
These are the Peace Oil partners:
If you or the groups quoted above find anything less than stellar about any of these three partners I’d like to hear about it. To call Peace Oil “an Israeli-based product with SOME Palestinian input” is a calumny. Or perhaps it’s just based on sheer ignorance. But if they want to run down a competitor it behooves them to do some research before they do so so they can at least get their claims right.
And I can’t be sure of that with Peace Oil?? Really. Who do you think Peace Oil supports? Israeli Jewish farmers?
I don’t have any problem with anyone supporting ANY Palestinian product whether it be Peace Oil or Zaytoun products–and neither should you. But if you want to carp about who’s holier than thou go right ahead. I won’t stop you.
I believe that what we have here is an unfortunate confusion over two different products with the same name.
As I understand it, there is a Peace Oil U.K., entirely separate from Sokal’s US based Peace Oil, and it is with the UK product, from a totally different source, but with the same name, that the British groups have a problem. Peace Oil UK, an initiative of the UK-based Charities Advisory Trust, directed by Hilary Blume, advertises its olive oil as ” produced in Israel by Jews, Arabs, Druze and Bedouin working together”, But according to the Guardian report, it “is produced in the foothills of the Carmel mountains in Israel, on 400 acres of land farmed by Amos Strauss, a Jewish farmer. He has four staff (18 in the high season), all of whom are Arab or Bedouin – so not exactly equal then; rather, a reinforcing of the status quo. Blume argues, stoutly, that this is the way it is on all farms, and they are fairly treated.” So, in the case of the UK Peace Oil, yes, it is supporting Israeli Jewish farmers and not Palestinians. Only their specialty cooking oil contains 50% oil from the West Bank, but it is all bottled and shipped from his farm in Israel.
I nearly posted the same kind of comment as David did, having heard first of the UK Peace Oil and assuming this product was the same, but realized that your description of Peace Oil didn’t match up to what I had heard. I’m sure you can ask Sokal about this as he is aware of the UK product. He recently posted on the Booman Tribune blog, commented on a story about the British controversy.
Here’s his comment:
“There is a Palestinian olive oil in the US called “Peace Oil” that is a true step towards peaceful cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians. My company has no association with the Peace Oil sold in the UK referred to above. As a matter of fact, I recently wrote to Hilary Blume of Charities Advisory Trust suggesting that she provide a more honest description of her product and work more closely with Zaytoun to promote Palestinian olive oil. My company, Olive Branch Enterprises, was set up in 2006 to help build mutually beneficial business partnerships between the two people. The Peace Oil I sell is from Palestinian farmers in the West Bank and within Israel. Three fair trade groups export the olive oil to me in Seattle: Canaan Fair Trade, Sindyanna of Galilee and Green Action Israel. The last two groups are based in Israel and represent true cooperation between equal partners: Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. Sindyanna is a group of Arab and Jewish women that have been working together since 1997 to strengthen the Arab community in the Galil region of Israel, to empower women and workers, protect olive groves and other farmland, and build a just and peaceful society. Green Action Israel is a grass-roots group promoting “socio-ecological change” through direct, non-violent action. Their fair trade advocate, Avi Levi, works with Palestinian farmers in three villages near Nablus to help them export their olive oil and other goods to Israel and around the world. I work directly with Nasser Abufarha of Canaan Fair Trade and occasionally CFT and Sindyanna cooperate by combining shipments to me in Seattle. See http://www.peaceoil.biz to learn more about the US version of Peace Oil and decide for yourself if it benefits peace in the middle-east, provides income to Palestinian farmers and represents a step forward away from years of conflict and injustice towards cooperation and equality.”
Sokal’s Peace Oil sound like a fine product which benefits Palestinian farmers, as does Zaytoun Oil, and also Holy Land Oil. Peace Oil UK, on the other hand, sounds like an Israeli farmer’s advertising gimmick. So perhaps you should cut David, and the British groups mentioned above, a little slack on this one Richard.
Oops, sorry Richard. I just now noticed your note above acknowledging the two different products. Well, hopefully my post might add a bit more info in any case.
Richard Silverstein says
Yes, indeed Zed & thanks for yr comment which does add a lot of information into the mix. I certainly mistook David’s link to the Guardian story as referring to David Sokal’s American product, which it doesn’t. I did go a little overboard in defending the latter w/o realizing that we were all making this mistake. And I certainly would buy products from David Sokal or Zeitoun before I bought the UK Peace Oil.
David Sokal says
Thank you Richard, David and Zed for discussing the Peace Oil described at http://www.peaceoil.biz and produced in Seattle WA. I am well aware of the controversy surrounding Peace Oil produced by Charities Advisory Trust in London and described at http://www.peaceoil.ORG.
I would like to point out that the Israeli farmer, Amos Strauss, is not responsible for the mis-characterization of the CAT product. This is entirely the creation of the people in London. Amos Strauss is an ethical farmer who also provides olive oil to Dr. Bonner’s Magic Soap along with Canaan Fair Trade of Jenin and Sindyanna of Galilee, two of the three fair trade groups that supply Peace Oil Seattle. See this article and video on Dr. Bonner’s website: http://www.drbronner.com/fairtrade_id_holyland.html. Just below the video is a PDF file of an article that was published in Ha’aretz about fair trade. On the last page of the article is a profile of Amos Strauss.
Perhaps from Hilary Blume’s (and even Amos’s) point of view, it is not unreasonable to describe their Peace Oil as being “… produced in Israel by Jews, Arabs, Druze and Bedouin working together.” Technically this is correct. However, in the context of the name “Peace Oil” and the other statements on their home page this statement was clearly misleading as it implies that the parties are equals working in a cooperative partnership, not a traditional employer/employee relationship.
It is important to note that when Peace Oil London was first sold in October of 2006 (one month after the initiation of sales of Peace Oil Seattle) there was no “Peace Oil for Cooking” which does include olive oil from Palestinian farmers in the Nablus area. Controversy was already brewing within months after the introduction of Peace Oil London. It was only after these rumblings that “Peace Oil for Cooking” was introduced. This only further incited the suspicions of those concerned that Peace Oil London was an effort by “Zionists” to undermine sales of Zaytoun.
After I read the article in the Guardian of Dec. 20, 2007, regarding Peace Oil London, I sent the following letter to Hillary:
Dear Ms. Blume,
I am the proprietor of Olive Branch Enterprises that sells Peace Oil in the US. I have followed your Peace Oil project with interest. I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing image issues, but this shouldn’t be a surprise given your attempt to “spin” (as we say in the US) Amos Strauss’s operation into “… Jews, Arabs, Druze and Bedouin working together.” It is particularly painful in light of the fact that Amos runs a very high standard operation and pays close attention to the needs of his laborers. If he is still considering seeking fair trade certification, I hope this won’t present an obstacle.
As I am sure you are aware, describing what you are doing honestly and clearly is a hallmark of ethical business practices and ultimately the best marketing strategy. If I may be so bold as to offer unsolicited advice: 1) apologize for the mis-characterization, and 2) reach out to Zaytoun as others have recommended.
I have spoken with supporters of Zaytoun in regards to their support of the boycott of Israeli products. We agreed to disagree. Yet I would be happy to work with them as a business partner. That is the true spirit of peace making. I hope that
Charities Advisory Trust’s “Peace” Oil will live up to the name of its product and follow these recommendations.
Judging by the continued description of Peace Oil at http://www.peaceoil.org as follows: “Peace Oil® is produced in Israel by Jews, Arabs, Druze and Bedouin working together,” it is clear that Hilary has no intention of following my advice or that of the many others that have asked her to show that her “Peace” Oil is what it says it is.
(I am the original poster.)
I am sorry, it appears I did confuse two different operations. The amazing coincidence of the names misled me. (Why doesn’t Mr. Sokal ask for his name back?)
It seems to me there are three different issues that one should try to understand about businesses like this:
1. The “free trade” aspect, which is an attempt to balance the economic power of small farmers with that of the producers they sell to, whether they’re coffee farmers or olive farmers.
2. The “aid” aspect, where one might want to make sure that their business is going to people whom they feel are most in need.
3. The “building bridges” aspect, where it’s not the final recipient of the dollars which matters most, but the idea that you’re supporting an organization that is presumably promoting social interaction, with the goal of better understanding.
I take it that it’s this last goal that Mr. Sokal most identifies with. I fully support such efforts too, but it does have to be said that they are the hardest to evaluate for their effectiveness.
David Sokal says
Hi David. As for the name issue you raise: “Peace Oil” was trademarked in the UK long before I trademarked it in the US. As these countries are two separate jurisdictions, both trademarks are valid within their respective territories. Ironically, I cannot sell my Peace Oil in the UK and they cannot sell their’s here. As for nations other than the US and UK, I am not sure who has the trademark rights. As such, I am reluctant to sell Peace Oil even in Canada until further research.
You mention three aspects of “fair trade”. You are right that the main purpose of my company, Olive Branch Enterprises, is to provide an incentive for Israelis and Palestinians to work together in mutually beneficial business partnerships. On the other hand, the two Israeli and one Palestinian fair trade groups I work with are focused on providing living wage incomes, building community resources, protecting the environment and creating more just communities for the farmers. These values are fully compatible with the goals of Olive Branch Enterprises.
As for measuring the results of Olive Branch Enterprise’s efforts in the area of providing an incentive for Israelis and Palestinians to work together, my brochure states: “as a for-profit, OBE’s financial success will be a measure of its ability to build and maintain sustainable, ongoing partnerships between Palestinians and Israelis …” “Financial success” is an objective measure of one’s ability to sell a product, to pay the people that provide the labor and resources, and to grow. How much this financial success is tied to building successful partnerships is another question. Assuming that Sindyanna of Galilee and Green Action are accurately reporting their activities at working across the ethnic divide, then my ability to grow will enhance their ability to grow, and from that we can assume that more people will become involved in work that entails cooperation between the two groups. All of this, of course, depends on olive oil purchasers who support the idea of the two people combining their efforts.
Since the term “fair trade” is, like the term “organic”, becoming more of a technical term defined by certifying agencies, it could be misleading to say that Olive Branch Enterprises is a fair trade company. Applying for certification is a long-term and expensive procedure and not an immediate goal. I am more interested in getting a hechscher (symbol verifying kosher certification) on Peace Oil. This will make the Jewish community more receptive as well as provide more incentive for Israeli Jews and Palestinians to work together. Currently, Canaan Fair Trade is not comfortable having a rabbi inspect their facilities, whereas the farmers in Nablus that work with Avi Levi of Green Action Israel are. Hopefully, we can get this done in 2008 and have a separate line of kosher Peace Oil. As I understand it, olive oil is automatically Halal and does not require any special treatment. If any of you know more about this, please let me know.
The next certification would be “organic”. Canaan Fair Trade and Sindyanna already have certification. However, Sindyanna sells their certified line at a higher price. The farmers in Nablus are not certified and may not yet have the resources to obtain certification.
I am happy to reply to any more questions. This discussion helps me understand things better as well.
In the UK Zaytoun is cheaper than Peace Oil – £4.20 each (in bulk) as opposed to £107.40 for twelve bottles from Peace Oil