EU states urged to label all West Bank produce separately
THE PALESTINIAN Authority has urged European Union states to follow South Africa’s example and separately label all products manufactured on West Bank settlements.
The call followed Pretoria’s decision on Wednesday to replace the “Made in Israel” label with an “Occupied Palestinian Territory” tag for all goods produced in the West Bank.
Abdul Hafiz Nofal, the Palestinian Authority’s deputy economy minister, thanked South Africa for the decision and said it would make the products not only easier to tax, but would also indicate to consumers which products to boycott should they choose to exclude settlement goods. “Giving those products a mark to distinguish them will prevent Israel from disguising them as Israeli products rather than settlement products,” Mr Nofal explained.
Israel, fearing Pretoria’s move could set a precedent for other states, reacted angrily, terming the move “unprecedented and blatant discrimination”. Since 2003 the EU has required Israeli companies to specify on their export invoices where their products are made, so that products manufactured in settlements would not enjoy the same tax breaks as goods manufactured inside Israel.
Back in May, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said Ireland might push for the EU to ban goods from Israeli settlements if Israel did not quickly change its settlements policy.
Speaking in Brussels after EU foreign ministers issued a communique saying the settlements threatened to make a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict impossible, Mr Gilmore set an early autumn deadline for EU action. “I think we may have to look at the question of banning products from settlement areas into the EU. We have always resisted the idea of boycotts in relation to Israel, but I think a distinction has to be drawn here between Israel and the settlements.”
The South African initiative was introduced in the spring by trade and industry minister Rob Davies. Jewish and pro-Israel groups in South Africa lobbied against the move but failed to prevent it becoming law this week.
Mr Davies specifically cited Ahava cosmetic products, soft drinks and technology imports being distributed as products originating in Israel, “whereas they originate from the occupied Palestinian territories”.
Israel slammed South Africa’s decision and Pretoria’s ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry in Jerusalem for a reprimand. Israel’s deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon went as far as to accuse Pretoria of “apartheid” by singling out Israel.
A foreign ministry statement noted that such “discrimination” had not been imposed, and rightly so, in any other case of national, territorial or ethnic conflict.
“Israel and South Africa have political differences and that is legitimate. What is totally unacceptable is the use of tools which, by essence, discriminate and single out, fostering a general boycott.”
Jewish settler representatives warned that Palestinian workers employed at factories in West Bank industrial zones could lose their livelihood if the other countries followed the South African example.