Israel is Building an Apartheid State on Palestinian Land: What We Must Understand and What We Can Do to Stop It

The United States and Europe must meaningfully support a two-state solution by conditioning financial and military support to Israel on the removal of settlements that meet urgent timelines and clear milestones.

We at Dr. Bronner’s count ourselves as allies of both Israel and Palestine. Our family and company history are deeply connected to the enormous tragedy and crime of the Holocaust, and the founding of the State of Israel*. However, the current right-wing government in Israel is creating a long overdue backlash in Israel and around the world, including with both Jewish and non-Jewish allies of Israel in the United States. This backlash is due in part to the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians, though is also largely a response to its anti-democratic moves and history of corruption.

Israel and Jewish people generally have to contend with often virulent anti-Semitism, that denies Israel’s right to exist, and Israel has a right to defend itself against the hate that surrounds it.  That said, Palestinians have equally long ancestral ties to shared ancestral lands, and deserve to have a state of their own, with East Jerusalem as their capital, just as Jewish people do.

Dr. Bronner’s and the Holy Land

Since 2008, Dr. Bronner’s has sourced approximately 90% of the olive oil we use annually from Canaan Fair Trade. Canaan works closely with regenerative organic and fair trade Palestinian farmers in Palestine’s West Bank, and through these relationships has seen the harassment and violence against farmers by settlers that makes daily life incredibly difficult for Palestinians. Nasser Abufarha, founder and CEO of Canaan Fair Trade, recently wrote his own analysis of the conflict in the region, which we published, and I highly recommend reading in conjunction with this piece.

We source the balance of our olive oil from Israel: half from a Jewish family farm, and half from Palestinian Christian farmers in the Nazareth region, working with the fair trade project Sindyanna. Blending Muslim, Jewish, and Christian produced olive oil in our soap, from Palestinian and Israeli farmers, is a powerful symbolic resonance to my grandfather’s vision of a united peaceful world living in respect of each other. And we hope—at least in a small way—our approach to sourcing olive oil and our business relationships in the region can contribute to a future vision of peace in the region.

Dr. Bronner’s Stance on Israel and Palestine

Myself and my brother, as owners and leaders of our company, are strong supporters of Israel’s right to exist within its 1967 borders. The Jewish people had clear and pressing need for safety in their own country, with ancestral connection to the land that current Israel now occupies. The founding of Israel in 1948 involved war with neighbors and the unjust and tragic displacement of large swaths of Palestinians. Still, I understand the historical moment that led to the founding of Israel; even the United States in the late ‘30s was sending boats full of desperate Jews back to Nazi Germany to perish. My grandfather (Dr. Bronner himself) even changed the color of his famous peppermint soap from black and gold to blue and white in 1967 to celebrate Israel’s successful defense against attack from its neighbors during the Six-Day War.

It must be understood that the historical necessity of Israel’s founding and the centuries of antisemitism that preceded it does not justify the way Israel treats Palestinians as second-class citizens and interlopers on their own lands. Former president Jimmy Carter twenty years ago called out Israeli policy in the West Bank as Apartheid and was widely vilified for it. We believe president Carter was right in 2003 and he’s still right today.

One of the primary drivers of Apartheid-style policies is the ascent of the “Greater Israel” view inside Israel, that views Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as “Arab squatters” on land that God supposedly gave to the Jewish people. They are backed up by a bizarre coalition of right-wing American Jews and Christian fundamentalists who believe that Israel occupying Palestinian land will lead to conflict and the destruction of the second temple and usher in the second Coming of Christ. This view is dangerous and counterproductive.

The best thing Israel can do for its long-term security is facilitate the aspirations of the Palestinian people for their own statehood, and withdraw all settlements from Palestinian lands. We are strongly in favor of a two-state solution. As a company, we believe our best course of action is to continue our sourcing of olive oil and selling of soaps in the Holy Land, and to dedicate all profits we derive from the region to Israeli and Palestinian organizations working for peace on either side of the divide.


*My grandfather, Emanuel “Dr.” Bronner—who our company is named after—was a third-generation master soapmaker who’s own grandfather, Emanuel Heilbronner first began manufacturing our family soap in the basement of his house in 1858, in the Jewish quarter of the small southern German town of Laupheim. Three of his sons, including Dr. Bronner’s father and my great grandfather Berthold, expanded the family enterprise by building a much bigger soap factory in Heilbronn, a large manufacturing center an hour away from Laupheim, also in southern Germany.

My grandfather’s youngest sister and my great aunt Lotte emigrated from Nazi Germany to the Ein Gev kibbutz in then Palestine and now Israel. We have family throughout Israel and am particularly close to Lotte’s oldest son Eli and his wife Nurit, who live outside of Jerusalem. My grandfather and his sister and my great aunt Luise emigrated to the U.S., but their parents stayed until it was too late and were murdered in the Holocaust: Berthold in Theriesenstadt in 1942, Franziska in Auswitz in 1944. Their tragic fate was the dark inspiration for my grandfather’s passion to unify humanity across religious and ethnic divides, highlighting on every bottle of soap that we are all children of the same divine source however we may pray or worship; and if we don’t unite we will destroy ourselves in a nuclear armed world. With my wife, kid, and friends, I recently visited Auschwitz and our ancestral homes in Germany, which I chronicle in this blog I posted in January of this year. I recommend reading as part and parcel of this article.

Author Profile

David Bronner

David Bronner is Cosmic Engagement Officer (CEO) of Dr. Bronner’s, the grandson of company founder, Emanuel Bronner, and a fifth-generation soap maker. He is a dedicated vegan and enjoys surfing and dancing late into the night.

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