The main entrance of the luxury Kaufhaus des Westens (KaDeWe) department store.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Berlin’s high-end department store KaDeWe, which was boycotted in the 1930s because of its former Jewish owners, pulled Israeli products manufactured in settlements from its shelves on Friday, adhering to new EU guidelines mandating labels on goods from the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights
KaDeWe spokesman Felix Kreus told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday that six brands of Israeli wine were removed from the store’s product line. He said the “reason was the EU guidelines” and that the wines will be on sale again in the next few days after they are re-labeled to comply with the EU guidelines.
Kreus stressed that KaDeWe’s decision had “nothing to do with anti-Semitism,” saying the store sells of hundreds of different Israeli products, and has “Jewish workers and customers from Israel.”
Asked why KaDeWe pulled the wines given that each EU country can decide whether it wants to impose labels, Kreus said he could not answer.
The department store’s move adds fuel to the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) debate targeting Israel’s economy in Germany. KaDeWe, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors a day, opened in 1907 and initially was owned by Adolf Jandorf, a Jewish real estate businessman.
It was purchased in 1927 by the Warenhaus Hermann Tiez, a Jewish family business enterprise. Berlin’s Nazi movement boycotted KaDaWe’s Jewish owners starting in 1933 and eventually seized the business.
KaDeWe, the largest department store in Berlin with 60,000 square meters of commercial space, was later coined the “Showcase of the West” during the Cold War because of its luxury products in West Berlin – in contrast to the substandard goods in the former communist East Berlin.
Events to punish Israel with economic penalties have recently become more pronounced in Germany.
The mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter, provided space for a BDS lecture in a city cultural building that coincided with the anniversary of the Kristallnacht pogroms and the opening of the new Israeli consulate in the Bavarian capital. Reiter pledged after the anti-Israel event to ban BDS events in city forums.
Munich was the organizational seat of the Nazi movement and Berlin later launched the nationwide boycott of Jewish businesses.
Two of the three parties that make up Germany’s coalition government oppose product labels on Israeli products from the disputed territories.
Jurgen Hardt, foreign policy spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union factions in the German Bundestag, called the EU measure a stigma on Israel.
“In view of the background of a movement hostile to Israel, which seeks to boycott products from the settlements, the EU measure is false,” he said. “It is very likely that the EU’s measure will be exploited... by a campaign hostile to Israel.”
He added that the European Commission’s decision will not serve consumer protection but “rather prove to be a stigmatization.”
Kai Diekmann, the editor-in-chief of Germany’s largest daily, Bild, blasted Europe in a tweet last week for demarcating Israeli products. He wrote “pathetic Europe” and compared the label to the Nazi-era boycott call “ Don’t buy from Jews!”
In a Bild commentary last week, reporter Ralf Schuler said the product labels are “unworthy of Europe.”
“Europe has enough to do in order to better protect Jews and fight anti-Semitism than give the enemies of Israel a means to boycott Israeli products,” he wrote. “It is a horror that once again there can be a call to boycott Jewish products in Germany.”
German efforts to invoke economic warfare against the Jewish state prompted sharp criticism from German Jews.
“The BDS campaign disguises the socially unacceptable ‘Don’t buy from Jews!’ as a modernized form of Nazi jargon by demanding ‘Don’t buy from the Jewish State,’” Charlotte Knobloch, a Holocaust survivor and head of Munich’s 9,500 member Jewish community, told the Post
earlier this month.
Israel’s National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister Yuval Steinitz called the EU label measure “disguised anti-Semitism.”