Kamala Harris: At their Passover meal on Friday, US Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff offered wine manufactured in a West Bank village.
Given the Biden administration’s critical position toward Israeli settlements, the unusual choice in spirits was discovered on the vice president’s seder table in images shared on Twitter by Harris and Emhoff.
The bottle belonged to the Psagot Winery, a company based north of Jerusalem in the West Bank that has generated headlines in recent years.
The winery appealed a French court order from 2016 that required commodities created in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights to be labeled as coming from an “Israeli settlement.” The European Court of Justice was not able to hear the case.
After repudiating a 1978 State Department legal opinion that declared civilian settlements in the West Bank were “inconsistent with international law,” Psagot produced a wine blend named after former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2020.
Unlike US President Joe Biden‘s White House, Pompeo was Washington’s senior envoy under previous US President Donald Trump, whose government strongly supported the settlement movement.
Pompeo and Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, paid a visit to the winery in November 2020.
Pompeo’s seder planners appeared to have chosen a Cabernet Sauvignon that sells for roughly $40, according to Yaakov Berg, the winery’s CEO, who welcomed Pompeo on Sunday. He joked on Army Radio that if Harris votes against reviving the 2015 P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran, he’ll produce a wine named after her.
When Israel advanced plans for 3,000 settlement homes last year, the Biden administration slammed them, calling such moves “totally incongruous” with attempts to keep peace hopes alive.
However, progressive groups like J Street have urged the government to formally back up that stance by reversing Pompeo’s decision or rejecting Trump’s peace proposal, which called for Israel to annex West Bank settlements.
Some pro-Palestinian voices jeered Harris’s Passover wine choice, including James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute.
“Psagot’s vineyards are on stolen Palestinian land. It’s not cool,” Zogby said.
The vast majority of the land on which the winery was established historically was farmed by residents of the adjacent Palestinian village of al-Bireh. It was seized by the IDF in 1979 for what it said were security reasons, though some of the farmers were still able to reach their land. That changed after the Second Intifada when the Psagot settlement established a security fence around the community. It extended well beyond the 140 dunams (34 acres) that the IDF had allocated for the settlement, to 650 dunams (160 acres). The winery founders used that extra land on the outskirts of the town, but inside the security fence, to plant their grapes.
Berg, at the time of Pompeo’s visit, declared: “We are here forever. We have been praying to come back to Israel and specifically to here for 2,000 years… We didn’t conquer. We just came to our homeland.”
“Next year, I would recommend that the Second Family offer the ‘Friedman’ vintage from the Psagot Winery,” former ambassador Friedman joked in response to the vice president’s usage of Psagot wine. I could be biassed, but I think it’s fantastic.”
“The wine provided during the Seder was in no way intended to be a reflection of policy,” Harris’s senior aide Herbie Ziskind said.
Kamla Harris and Douglas Emhoff, Tweeted Statements
The consumption of wine from the Psagot Winery in the West Bank by US Vice President Kamala Harris at her Passover Seder generated social media outrage over the weekend, with her staff emphasizing that she was not making a political statement in favor of settlements.
“Huge yikes: Kamala Harris @VP served wine from Psagot at her Passover Seder,” tweeted Michael Bueckert, vice president of the Middle East-focused NGO Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East.
“It is manufactured in an illegal Israeli colony occupying the occupied West Bank.” He went on to say, “This indicates serious disrespect for Palestinians and international law.”
The Psagot wine bottles, on the other hand, were not meant to represent any political stance by Harris, especially given the Biden administration’s anti-settlement stance.
Herbie Ziskend, Harris’s senior adviser for communications, said, “The wine provided during the Seder was in no way intended to be a reflection of policy.”
After Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, both tweeted statements and photos of their Seder, the presence of settler wine was revealed.
“Tonight, @VP and I were pleased to celebrate Passover with our dedicated staff at the Vice President’s Residence by conducting a Seder,” Emhoff tweeted.
“We wish you all a Happy Passover!” he added, “whether you’re celebrating with your family, your work family, or the family you’ve chosen!”
He supplied a photo of himself, the VP, and their guests seated at a typical Passover table, complete with matzot, wine glasses, and a traditional Seder plate. Alternative symbols included an orange, which symbolizes the necessity of assuring complete inclusion of women and lesbian, homosexual, bisexual, and transgender people in Jewish traditions.
Bottles from the Psagot Winery, which is located in the Sha’ar Binyamin Industrial Park on the West Bank, just outside of Jerusalem, were photographed by both Emhoff and Harris.
Kamala Harris From a West Bank Settlement Key Highlights
- In the first known Passover seder at the Vice President’s residence, Kamala Harris and Doug Emhoff serve Israeli wine from a West Bank settlement, according to a Twitter photo.
- Emhoff appears to have posted an image of their Passover seder table on Friday night, the first known celebration of the holiday in the Vice President’s residence.
- One of the bottles of wine on the table appeared to contain a label from Psagot Winery in the West Bank, according to a Jewish news wire service.
- A bottle named after Trump’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, is available at the winery.
- It named a vintage after the Trump official after he slammed a European Court of Justice rule that would mandate the labeling of West Bank-made goods.
- ‘The wine provided at the Seder was in no way intended to be a representation of a policy,’ a representative for Harris said on Twitter Saturday night.