The main entrance of the luxury Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) department store.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The German Department store KaDeWe, which on Saturday removed from its store wine produced in the Golan Heights, apologized for the move on Sunday and returned the bottles to its shelves.
Following a great deal of criticism on social media and a protest from the Green Party’s Volker Beck, president of the German-Israeli Parliamentary Friendship Group in the Bundestag, a spokesman for the department store sent him a letter of apology.
“The eight Israeli wines will be immediately returned,” the letter read. “On this issue, dealt with following recommendations of the European Commission, we acted too fast and without sensitivity. We are sorry that the mistaken action of the KaDeWe Group lead to misunderstandings, and we want to apologize for that.”
Netanyahu to Germany: Take action against department store that removed Israeli goods
The department store then went on to say that it carries a wide array of international products, including more than 200 Israeli products.
“KaDeWe is a symbol of cosmopolitanism and internationalism and we reject any discrimination and intolerance from any side,” the letter read.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the department store, and told the cabinet that the German government should take action against the move.
Pointing out that this department store was originally owned by Jews and confiscated by the Nazis, Netanyahu said that what began with the labeling of products, has evolved into a full-blown boycott of those products.
“We strongly protest this step, which is morally, substantively and historically unacceptable” Netanyahu said. “We expect the German government, which came out against product labeling, to act on this grave matter.”
A department store spokesman told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday the wines had been removed from because of the new EU guidelines on settlement product labeling, and that they would go on sale again after they were relabeled.
On November 11, after months of discussion, the European Commission issued guidelines calling for products made in settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights to be labeled as such, and not as products from Israel because that would be “misleading consumers.”
Netanyahu’s comments dovetailed with what he said last week at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference about the need to condemn such moves.
“I think condemnation is very important,” he said. “When somebody does something outrageous, you say it. You don’t say: Oh, well, let it pass. It’s outrageous. It should be said so.”
Speaking even before the KaDeWe in Berlin took its steps, Netanyahu said of the whole labeling issue that it was morally abhorrent because within “living memory” Jewish products and stores were labeled on European soil.
He said he would expect that Europe would not “adopt this heinous act, which has such horrible historical overtones.”
KaDeWe social-media platforms, as well as its customer email account, experienced a wave of criticism for its action.
One customer wrote on KaDeWe’s Facebook page: “Whoever boycotts Jews, I will boycott them.” Another post read “such anti-Semitic behavior is not to be tolerated. Twitter was also alight with attacks on KaDeWe and calls for a boycott of the store.
After the department store restored the products, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, the head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, wrote on Twitter: “…slowly BDS demonization being exposed, Euro-funded NGO leaders losing influence.”
NGO Monitor is a watchdog organization that seeks to expose European funding for BDS activity.
Critics of the EU-labeling policy see the measure as a form of the Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment (BDS) movement targeting Israel’s economy.
In contrast to KaDeWe, the GALERIA Kaufhof department store chain in Germany did not remove Israeli products from its shelves.
According to German media, a GALERIA Kaufhof spokesperson said the chain’s policy is not to be influenced by religion or politics when purchasing products. GALERIA Kaufhof sells products made in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.Benjamin Weinthal contributed to this article.