Major German department store apologizes for pulling Golan wines


(JTA) — Germany’s KaDeWe department store in Berlin has apologized for removing wines made in the Golan Heights from its shelves and said it will return them immediately.

In a letter to Green Party legislator Volker Beck, the company said it acted “rashly and insensitively” in carrying out a recent European Union labeling regulation.

“We regret that this improper reaction of the KaDeWe group triggered a misunderstanding, and ask for your pardon,” the brief note from the management read, in part.

Beck posted the apology on his Facebook page, noting that “protest pays off.” The department store followed suit on its page.

Protests broke out over the weekend, when news spread that the store had decided to comply with a new European Union regulation requiring special labeling of fruit and vegetables, cosmetics and other products from the West Bank and Golan Heights. The products are no longer permitted to bear the label “Made in Israel.”

Noa Laron, founder of the Berlin-based Milk and Honey Tours, and Manuela Bleiberg, owner of one of Berlin’s few kosher restaurants, were among those who publicly protested and said they would urge clients not to shop at KaDeWe until the policy was revoked.

A spokeswoman for KaDeWe told the German media on Friday that the store was removing eight wines from stock, due to the recent decision by the European Union Commission.

The spokeswoman, Petra Fladenhofer, said the importer of the eight wines was planning to have new labels printed, and that “of course the products will then be back on our shelves again.”

According to the Berlin Morgenpost newspaper, the Galeria Kaufhof – another major department store in the German capital – has not reacted to the new EU regulation. Kaufhof sells products from Israel, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

A Galeria Kaufhof spokesman told Spiegel Online magazine that the store does not make political or religious statements through the products on its shelves. Suppliers, and not the store itself, are responsible for labeling, the spokesman said.

KaDeWe was opened in 1907 by a Jewish merchant. In 1933, with Germany under National Socialism, a banking group forced KaDeWe’s Jewish owners to sell the store and others in the Hertie chain.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed what he called a “boycott” on Sunday at the beginning of the weekly Cabinet meeting.

“This department store had been owned by Jews; the Nazis took it. Absurdly, the store is now labeling products from communities in Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights,” he said.

“It started with labeling products and now we are told that the products have been removed from the shelves – a boycott in every respect. We strongly protest this step, which is unacceptable morally, historically and on its merits. We expect the German government, which came out against product labeling, to act on this grave matter.”

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