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Sunday, December 27, 2009
Swedes move Mul-T-Lock factory out of "disputed" Barkan industrial zone

Swedes move factory out of "disputed" Barkan industrial zone
Nevit Zomer, Zvi Singer and Yigal Rom (Copenhagen), Yediot Ahronot,
December 22 [page 13]
[Translation thanks to Didi Remez
http://palestinenote.com/cs/blogs/blogs/archive/2009/12/23/yediot-pressure-pushes-swedish-owned-company-out-of-west-bank-industrial-zone.aspx ]

Mul-T-Lock, which is under Swedish ownership, will be relocating its lock
factory out of the Barkan industrial zone to a new location inside the Green
Line. The reason for this decision is political pressure from human rights
organizations and the Swedish church.

"The company is not interested in operating the factory in an area over
which there is a political dispute as to who possesses ownership rights,"
explained yesterday Ann Holmberg, the spokeswoman for the giant Swedish lock
company, Assa Alboy, which owns Mul-T-Lock. She said that the decision was
connected to a critical report that was filed by NGOs, which criticized Assa
Alboy for having a connection to a factory that operates, as they put it, in
occupied territory.

A scathing report by human rights organizations and the Swedish church,
which was submitted to the corporation's board of directors a year ago,
warned the board members that they could face prosecution for violating
international law, which bans the establishment of settlements in occupied
territory. "The activity of the company in the occupied territories not only
contradicts international law, but also undermines the chances of reaching a
peace arrangement, and it has legal and moral implications," wrote the
authors of the report, who hail from the Swedish church; Diakonia, a Swedish
company that assists developing countries; and SwedWatch, which examines the
financial and business relations that Swedish companies maintain in
developing countries.

Two months ago Assa Alboy announced its decision to relocate Mul-T-Lock from
its current location in the Barkan industrial zone to Modiin. Ann Holmberg
added an apology in the name of the corporation for having owned a factory
in occupied territory for eight years. Assa Alboy bought the Israeli
Mul-T-Lock in 2000. She promised to rectify the situation.

The Gush Shalom movement, which played an active role in pressuring
Mul-T-Lock, issued a statement at the time that read: "We hope for the
collapse of the Barkan industrial zone, which strengthens the settlements
and damages the future of the state."

The controversial decision notwithstanding, Tzahi Weisenfeld, an Assa Alboy
VP (the highest-ranking Israeli in the corporation), said that the
corporation would continue to invest in Israel. He said that Mul-T-Lock's
activity was expected to increase and that Assa Alboy would continue to buy
and to promote mergers in Israel.

Mul-T-Lock intends to utilize the relocation to Modiin for integrating the
activity that is currently done in the Barkan industrial zone
factory-manufacturing parts-with the work done in a second Mul-T-Lock
factory in Yavne, which is responsible for assembly. The new and united
factory which will be opened within one year's time, will be built with an
investment of NIS 80 million. Mul-T-Lock is currently negotiating the
acquisition of land in the Modiin industrial zone to build the new plant,
which will have 15,000 square meters of production space. The 350 workers at
the two existing factories will continue to be employed by the new factory.

Samaria Regional Council Chairman Gershon Mesika refused last night to
comment on the Assa Alboy decision. That said, Samaria Regional Council
officials noted that the majority of workers employed by the company in the
Barkan industrial zone were Palestinians and that, as such, the decision was
likely to be detrimental mainly to Palestinians, and not Jewish settlers.

Workers at Mul-T-Lock said they were mainly afraid that the decision would
adversely affect their quality of life. "People aren't going to want to have
to travel far to their workplace," explained one of the women who work at
the plant. Another woman employed by Mul-T-Lock said: "We still can't feel
the end, and everything is normal for the time being. When we reach that
bridge, we'll cross it."

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