Labelling of West Bank products 'racist', says Israel

 

THE FOREIGN ministry in Jerusalem will today summon South Africa’s ambassador to Israel to complain over Pretoria’s decision to label products manufactured in West Bank Jewish settlements.

Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor accused South Africa of racism by singling out Israel and ignoring dozens of other areas of conflict.

“This is essentially a racist measure. It is shocking to know that, of all the countries, South Africa is acting so callously.”

The diplomatic spat followed the decision by South African trade and industry minister Rob Davies requiring food importers not to use the label “Product of Israel” for goods manufactured in the West Bank. He said such products are imported from occupied Palestinian territories.

Explaining his decision, Mr Davies said it was not fair to “fool consumers” about the true origin of products.

“The government of South Africa recognises the state of Israel only within its 1948 borders – that area does not include territories captured by Israel in 1967.”

Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib welcomed the South African decision, saying it constituted “a genuine challenge to Israel on its continuous violation of international law and the rights of the Palestinian people”.

West Bank settlers warned that Palestinians would be the main victims of an international boycott as 15,000 are employed in factories in West Bank industrial zones.

Last week, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore said Ireland may push for the EU to ban goods from settlements if Israel does not quickly change its policy on them.

Denmark also intends to have special labelling for West Bank products. Danish foreign minister Villy Sovndal said he will instruct importers to label goods manufactured in settlements as produced in “Palestinian territories”.

He said such a step would “clearly show consumers that the products are produced under conditions that not only the Danish government, but also European governments, do not approve of”.