Barkan industrial zone
Barkan industrial zoneIsrael news photo: Flash 90

Government officials and business leaders, including Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simchon attended the inauguration of the new Beigel and Beigel factory in Tzfat this week. All lauded the opening of the factory, saying that it would greatly benefit the local economy and help the company grow.

One person who was not in attendance at the event was Ron Nachman, Mayor of Ariel – who lost the battle to convince officials of Unilever to keep its pretzel and cracker-making subsidiary at its original home in the Barkan Industrial Zone, near Ariel.

Unilever decided to move the factory after European groups organized a boycott of Unilever products over the fact that the company owned a factory in the “Occupied West Bank.”

Speaking to Arutz Sheva, Nachman decried what he said was a trend of factory closures in Barkan. “Many Israeli companies that have been acquired by multinationals and had facilities in Barkan were moved elsewhere, to within the 1948 armistice lines.”

Other companies that have moved from the industrial zone in recent months include Multiech, makers of Rav Bariach doors and locks, which for years was headquartered in Barkan, but was moved after it was acquired by a Swedish company, along with the Barkan Winery, which was moved to Kibbutz Hulda after a reorganization (the company has retained the name Barkan for its wines). “I authorized the establishment of the Beigel and Beigel factory over 20 years ago, and it was a wonderful business, and all of the sudden Unilever buys it up and because of politics moves it to Tzfat.”

The worst part, said Nachman, was that the company had been rewarded for moving north – receiving building and tax credits due to companies opening up in peripheral areas. In that sense, Nachman said, the government was encouraging the international boycott of Judea and Samaria.

“There are groups that want to destroy the businesses of Judea and Samaria, but no government ministers take an interest in this problem. First the Palestinians boycotted us and then the South Africans did, and now Israelis themselves are taking away our factories. Where is the government of Israel in all this?”

With all that, Nachman said that he would not give up the fight; the pressure will only encourage him to defend the Barkan Industrial Zone. “Our local economy is thriving, and companies are anxious to open factories in our industrial zones. No matter how much they try to hurt us, we will thrive.”

Responding to Nachman's comments, a Unilever official said that the move to Tzefat had nothing to do with politics, but was due to “logistics,” with the new factory located next to Unilever's Vered HaGalil factory, which has been in Tzfat for 26 years. The purpose of the move was to centralize production of all of Unilever's snack food business in Israel, the spokesperson said.

Unilever continues to maintain a factory in the southern region, in the Negev city of Arad -- located within the 1948 armistice lines -- where the company produces breakfast cereals and other products.