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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Sweden labels Golan wines "Made in Israeli-Occupied Syria"

Israel has had more than its share of run-ins with Sweden lately. Back in April, Sweden withdrew from an international air force exercise because Israel was going to be participating. The next day, the Swedes granted visas to Hamas representatives to come to Sweden to raise money for the 'Palestinian Authority.' The Swedes have consistently advocated "giving Hamas a chance" since January's 'Palestinian elections.' So if I had to pick a country that was likely to do something like this, Sweden would have been pretty high on my list.

Israel manufactures some very fine wine on the Golan Heights, through a company called the Golan Heights Winery. The wines have won many international awards and are widely regarded as among the best wines in Israel. They are manufactured under the Golan and Yarden labels. (If any of you happen to be visiting Katzrin, where the winery is located, it's worth the tour and the tasting session afterwards). The wines are also exported abroad.

Sweden has a state-owned alcohol retail monopoly called Systembolaget. Apparently, the Swedes had a bit of a problem with alcohol consumption so the government took over retail marketing of alcohol, in order to restrict consumption. As a result, the Swedes went from being one of the highest alcohol consumption societies to being one of the lowest.

All of which leads us to what this story is about:
Systembolaget has labeled Israeli Golan and Yarden wines as "made in Israel-occupied Syrian territories."

According to the company's spokesman, Bjorn Rydberg (are all Swedish men named Bjorn?), the decision was made after unnamed clients complained about the previous label, which stated the wine was made in Israel. The company made the change after consulting with the Swedish Foreign Ministry.

"It's the ministry's recommendation that we are following, however because of the criticism, we will consider changing the label again," Rydberg said.

The labeling decision has apparently been 'diplomatically resolved' by Swedish Foreign Minister Jan Eliasson and his Israeli counterpart, Tzipi Livni. Nevertheless, this decision and the two I noted above have left some tension in Israeli-Swedish relations.


At 9:08 AM, Blogger Red Tulips said...

This disgusts me, and even moreso, because I was in Sweden recently, supporting this nation with my tourism dollars! Ugh!

By the way, I tried that Golan Heights wine at Passover dinner, and it is some of the best wine I have had. I looked for it at my local wine shop, but alas, did not see it.


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