Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain to label products from Israeli settlements

on 70 Comments
Swiss food giant Migros to differentiate between products made in Israel and made in Israeli settlements in occupied Palestine. (Photo: Keystone)

Following decisions by South Africa and Denmark over the past month to re-label items originating from the occupied Palestinian territories, today a major Swiss retailer announced it will also axe the “made in Israel” tags. Citing consumer choice, Migros, Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain, will begin changing the labels on produce, herbs and Soda Stream machines next year. Products from settlements will be identified as either “made in the West Bank, Israeli settlement area” or “made in East Jerusalem, Israeli settlement area.”

Yet the Swiss company was careful to stipulate the move is not an endorsement of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), as settlement products will remain on the grocery store’s shelves.

“We are against the boycotts and are neutral,” said Migros spokesperson Monika Weibel in a French report by Iran’s IRIB World Service Radio Francophone. Continuing, “While we took this decision, it is only to give the consumer a free choice whether or not to buy products from these settlements.”

And although the Swiss-Israel chamber of commerce (La Chambre de commerce Suisse-Israël) decried the decision as a call to boycott in “a disguised call to boycott,” RIB World Service reported Peter Leuenberger from the Swiss-Palestine Association says the decision is not far-reaching enough. “The recognition of international law is an important sign,” but Leuenberger continued, “these products are illegal, it would be the responsibility of the businesses not to sell them.”

About Allison Deger

Allison Deger is the Assistant Editor of Mondoweiss.net. Follow her on twitter at @allissoncd.

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70 Responses

  1. Les
    May 30, 2012, 1:29 pm

    Great news. Nora Barrows-Friedman reported in her podcast that almost daily there are victories to report in the BDS movement, however small, but there are more and more of them.

  2. seafoid
    May 30, 2012, 2:31 pm

    h/t to Ellen, selbstverstaendlich

    Good job by Migros. You cannae polish a Zionist turd.

    • Daniel Rich
      May 30, 2012, 7:07 pm

      @ seafoid,

      Do you mean ‘selbstverständlich’?

      • seafoid
        May 31, 2012, 3:47 am

        Yes. I don’t have ä on my home PC
        but ae is an acceptable substitute

      • lysias
        May 31, 2012, 4:59 pm

        You don’t need an umlaut to write, “Das versteht sich von selbst”.

        Or you can create an umlauted vowel by putting between “&” and “;” the vowel followed by “uml”. Thus, “& auml ;” if you remove the spaces.

      • seafoid
        May 31, 2012, 6:08 pm

        In Switzerland they often drop the umlaut and replace it with an e and of course there is the ss they use instead of the correct German letter…

  3. pabelmont
    May 30, 2012, 2:55 pm

    Isn’t it odd? Such baby-steps they seem, but progress of a sort. First we (some of us) wanted full-Israel BDS. Others wanted settlements-only-BDS. Here we see labeling-only semi-BDS. South Africa and Switzerland can only manage a labeling boycott. But it is progress.

    Perhaps WTO rules forbid countries to boycott trade-goods based on means of manufacture (such as made-by-slave-labor, tuna-caught-by-bad-nets, etc.) BUT they don’t at all forbid boycotts by individuals, stores, etc. Let’s hope the BDS folks stay at it and get the settlement-produced goods removed from the shelves, with much attendant noise.

    • seafoid
      May 30, 2012, 3:24 pm

      BDS is making great progress. I suppose it tallies with Israel’s descent into madness.

      • Citizen
        May 31, 2012, 10:39 am

        Imagine if the US sanctioned and boycotted Israel like it’s doing to Iran, so long as Israel does not join the NNPA, allow full inspections of its nuclear sites and continues with its illegal Israeli settlements? And if US cracked down on US NGOs that may be seen in any view as aiding and abetting those settlers? Now that’s an agenda worth living for, eh? Justice and Sincerity is its middle name.

  4. HarryLaw
    May 30, 2012, 3:06 pm

    It should not be forgotten that the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations [ CPUTR 2008] applies to the whole of Europe labelling is just one component of that regulation here is what that means —- When is a commercial practice unfair?

    A commercial practice may be unfair if it:

    a) It contravenes the requirements of professional diligence (Regulation 3(3)(a)).

    b) It materially distorts or is likely to materially distort the economic behaviour of the average consumer with regard to the product. (Regulation 3(4) (a) and (b)).

    c) It is a misleading action (Regulation 3(4)(a) and 5).

    d) It is a misleading omission (Regulation 3(4)(b) and 6).
    Here in the UK it is a criminal offence as it would be in Europe to for a trader to label a product manufactured or produced in the West Bank as manufactured or produced in Israel [ One of the UK ministers involved with this issue admitted that this was the case.] In the Swiss case it would appear to be a Misleading action, but equally I am involved with Asda superstores over the sale of Soda stream carbonating devices from Mishor Edomin in the West Bank who do not put any Geographical or Commercial origin or Geographical address or that of any other trader on whose behalf the Agent is acting on their labels or packaging in breach of section 6 CPUTR [misleading omissions 4 a and 4c ] the fact that the factory in Mishor Edomin is a war crime also the settlement is a war crime are material facts a consumer needs to know in order to make an informed purchasing decision. Also because the consumer does not know the origin of the product, the consumer is unaware his purchase does in fact contribute to the financial and ongoing viability of the illegal settlement enterprise this itself constitutes aiding and abetting contrary to the Geneva Conventions and ICC act UK 2001, in fact Soda streams senior management have said they are going to expand this illegal factory in the near future [Sodastream Annual Report for Fiscal year ended 31st December 2010] most right thinking people would be horrified to discover their 50 pound purchase contributed to such ongoing criminal activity, so all the Laws are in place they just need acting on.

    • Philip Munger
      May 30, 2012, 10:13 pm

      Very interesting and informative, HarryLaw.

      Your reading of CPUTR 2008 seems to indicate that not doing what the Swiss are doing – mislabeling or not labeling settlement and EJ products is a serious matter.

  5. HarryLaw
    May 30, 2012, 3:46 pm

    Baby steps indeed pabelmont, for a long time many people thought only the Trading standards authorities could bring prosecutions, the Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights here in the UK never told activists that individuals could bring prosecutions insisting that only the Trading Standards Authority could do so, that is not true, it is not easy, but here’s how a private prosecution can take place — (Public) private prosecutions

    Although it is usually the case that prosecutions are brought by prosecuting authorities, most notably by the police / Crown Prosecution Service or local authorities, it does not necessarily mean that a private individual cannot launch his own prosecution. Some statutes are proscriptive in terms of who may prosecute under them. S 83(1) of the Weights and Measures Act 1985, for example, provides that proceedings for most offences under that Act shall not be instituted by or on behalf of anyone other than a local weights and measures authority or the chief of police. Other statutes, however, including the TDA and CPA, have no such limitations.

    In MFI Furniture Centre Ltd v Hibbert (1996) 160 JP 178, Balcombe LJ said: “S 27(1)(a) of the [CPA], which imposes a duty upon every weights and measures authority … to enforce [within their area the safety provisions and the] provisions of Part III of the Act, does not limit the powers of others to prosecute. Thus Mr Hibbert, [the local authority officer who laid the information in this case] like any other person, had the power to prosecute – see, e.g., s 6 of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1985. … now if only us activists had as much money as Shurat Hadin who seem to be making millions for their clients on cooked up and spurious legal arguments, but I should not complain, at least they are having a go through the legal process which is more than I can say for our side and we have the law on our side.

  6. Kathleen
    May 30, 2012, 5:35 pm

    terrific…movement. Sodastream is doing a heavy advertisement blitz here in the states

  7. Fredblogs
    May 30, 2012, 9:40 pm

    Sounds reasonable to me. Honest labeling so as to let the few people who care where the stuff comes from properly boycott it. I suspect the stuff will sell anyway and provide evidence of how little people care.

    Although I do hope this doesn’t lead to vandalism of the labeled items. Remember folks, forcing other people to not buy things isn’t a boycott, it’s extortion.

    • WeAreAllMadeOfStars
      May 31, 2012, 2:19 am

      “how little people care” … Sorry to disappoint … Many people do care …
      This is precisely why Migros chose to mention “settlement zone”. Indication of origin is mandatory and people do care, some for political reasons others for ecological ones.
      I know of many people that just don’t buy “Israel”.
      There has been a soft pressure on those Swiss retail giants (Migros and Coop mainly) to boycott “made in Israel” products … As far as food is concerned, the idea was to ask for alternative origin in the shops themselves :”I see you only have Jaffa oranges, Jaffa is an Israeli brand, I don’t buy Israeli products, do you have any alternative products?” Also this company, and the last three times I checked, would either mix Israeli products with products from other origin or fail to mention the origin. Alas this pesky Jaffa stickers … Each time, I asked to have the proper origin mentioned and to talk to the shop manager. Each time the manager would say sorry, mistake, no intention etc but they perfectly knew and felt the pressure.
      In my opinion indication of origin is a small step and must be appreciated as such. It is also a marketing move for a company that touts its “engageMent” for various causes. It will allow Migros to sell and advertise Israel with no shame. And remember Migros will start its action next year. This leaves the settlers way enough time to change their packaging and sell their products as “made in Israel”
      As said, its a small step, but it will help increase awareness of the whole matter, it will help put pressure on other stores … it will help a real BDS …

      • WeAreAllMadeOfStars
        May 31, 2012, 6:55 am

        Literally 5 minutes after I posted the above message a colleague of mine said to me “Hey have you heard of Migros’ decision” … After a short exchange, the talk ended up like this :”and I don’t and won’t buy any Israeli product anyway”

        See Fred, yes people care, yes BDS is working … slowly in the market, faster in people’s mind … and the market WILL catch up

      • Fredblogs
        May 31, 2012, 12:49 pm

        I didn’t say nobody cares, but the anti-Israeli folks here tend to live in echo chambers and listen only to like minded people. The people who don’t care just don’t bother mentioning it.

      • Cliff
        May 31, 2012, 1:52 pm

        If you think Israel will be dismantled by BDS overnight or that BDS alone will defeat Israeli apartheid and colonialism and Zionism’s stranglehold over Palestinian sovereignty – then you’re more deluded than this caricature of the anti-Zionist straw-man you’ve erected.

        Things happen slowly over time. (Unfortunately)

        We’re just regular boring people like you Fred, with jobs and school and girlfriends and wives and families and friends and blah blah.

        BDS is how people – ordinary people – ‘feel’ like they are physically making a change. They feel this way because possibly because in their respective political cultures, the discourse might be dominated by a bunch of Fredblogs!

        Ever see ‘Being John Malkovich’? I can imagine walking into a bar full of people like you and losing my mind.

        So these people – in there own way, however small it may be according to you, oh wise Fredblogs – feel like they are helping the Palestinians. Since they are normal people and they can’t join a militia or a terrorist group or don a cape and save the Palestinians from you like in a comic book. This will have to do.

        Its something.

        We don’t have your Lobby’s money, guns, networking, overlap of interests, etc.

        Oh and we’re HONEST. That’s as much a flaw as it is our advantage unfortunately.

        If only we could lie so effortlessly as your Mark Regevs and Avital Leibowitz(sp), et. al.

      • Mooser
        May 31, 2012, 5:56 pm

        “We’re just regular boring people like you Fred….”

        Fredblogs a “regular boring person”? Surely not! Why, I don’t know anybody who spends all day in front of a computer at a website they hate, trying to lie for a country they don’t live in.

    • Ellen
      May 31, 2012, 3:42 am

      Fred, apparently a whole lot of people DO care.

      That’s what prompted the new labeling requirements. It was really a business decision by Migros in response to customers.

      Parallel to this a survey of thousands among the general public done by a mass media outlet in Switzerland asking specifically if ones cares about proper label of origin out of Israel, almost 70 percent wanted to know. That is a significant response.

      As for projecting ideas of vandalism….that is something of your imagination. Besides, the Swiss are generally a no drama people.

      • Fredblogs
        May 31, 2012, 12:53 pm

        “Do you care about proper product origin labeling”. Of course most people are going to say “yes” if you ask it like that. I would answer “yes” to that. What matters is whether they hate Israel enough to avoid Israeli products. I suspect the numbers are much smaller on that.

        re: “no drama people”. I’m talking about the anti-Israel crowd, not the general population of Switzerland. There has been vandalism of Israeli products in at least France and the U.S., so it’s not as though I’m coming up with this idea out of thin air.

      • Bumblebye
        May 31, 2012, 6:23 pm

        If you don’t provide links you might as well be coming up with the tales of vandalism out of thin air.
        Why have we got to ‘hate’ Israel? Can’t we just loathe the ideology that drives so many Israelis and Israel-firsters? When I complained about Israeli produce in one of my local supermarkets a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t say I hated Israel, I simply stated a few of the facts we know about such produce, and complained about the lack of alternatives.
        And there’s another example of the worsening racism even within Israel:
        The ever delightful Baruch Marzel has decided to hold daily rallies in south Tel Aviv against African refugees, and last night they managed to beat up an Ethiopian Jew, because he “didn’t look Jewish”.

      • Fredblogs
        May 31, 2012, 7:11 pm

        I don’t know why you have to hate Israel, but you do. So maybe you should be answering that. You may not have said so when you complained at your grocery store, but that doesn’t change the facts. As for vandalism, your compatriots video recorded themselves doing it in America. Go google it if you want to know about the French incidents.

      • Annie Robbins
        May 31, 2012, 7:33 pm

        your argument would sound less desperate if you didn’t rely on the hate crutch. accusing ones advisory of hatred is a staple for hasbarists.

        no one knows what resides in another, so when you say..i don’t know..i just know..it sounds childish. it’s a threadjack accusation.

      • Bumblebye
        May 31, 2012, 7:49 pm

        My “compatriots”? People who share my nationality? You mean there was a bunch of Brits in your US of A vandalising so called Israeli stuff??

      • Mooser
        May 31, 2012, 8:38 pm

        “I don’t know why you have to hate Israel, but you do.”

        You tell ’em Fredblobs! I mean, it’s not like we have good reason for hating, not like all the good reasons Israelis have to hate Palestinians!

      • RoHa
        May 31, 2012, 8:49 pm

        ‘they managed to beat up an Ethiopian Jew, because he “didn’t look Jewish”.’

        Well, that’s his own fault, isn’t it?
        Some people just won’t make an effort.

      • Mooser
        June 1, 2012, 5:10 pm

        “Some people just won’t make an effort.”

        Considering the augmentations plastic surgeons can make below the neck, it should be a simple matter. After all you only have one nose, not two.
        Yup, only himself to blame. And Israel has Socialised Medicine, too.

      • Ellen
        June 1, 2012, 6:31 pm

        Dang Fred, now you are bringing the ‘ole “hate” thing into your argument.

        The occupied territories are not Israel. It is about truth in labeling. There are laws covering truthful labeling of origin.

        Btw, you implied earlier, who would care? The issue is huge in Switzerland — even supported by many Jews of Switzerland. There was a full page ad in the Neue Zuericher Zeitung today thanking Migros for their courageous first step, and appealing to other outlets not to sell products that are produced under conditions in violation of international and human rights .

        The ad was placed by HEKS, a large aid organization.

    • seafoid
      May 31, 2012, 8:05 am

      “forcing other people to not buy things isn’t a boycott, it’s extortion.”

      How would you describe Israel’s policy of pauperisation of the Palestinians, Fred?

      • Fredblogs
        May 31, 2012, 12:54 pm

        I’d describe it as non-existent.

      • seafoid
        May 31, 2012, 4:46 pm


        there are too many people onthe side of Israel who have become detached from the fundamental moral underpinnings of Judaism. And you are amongst them.

      • Mooser
        May 31, 2012, 8:43 pm

        “from the fundamental moral underpinnings of Judaism.”

        I didn’t know there was such a thing. I thought there were only religious beliefs. And if Fredblogs, as I know he can, comes up with any number of citations showing that Zionism is in the great tradition of “Jewish moral underpinnings” what then?

      • Sumud
        June 1, 2012, 4:16 am

        I’d describe it as non-existent.

        Israel does all it can get away with to crush the economy of occupied Palestine.

        It’s absurd to suggest otherwise.

      • Fredblogs
        June 1, 2012, 1:20 pm

        Israel does all it can to help the economy of Palestinian territories in the West Bank, they are hoping that higher quality of life will tempt the Palestinians away from terrorism. I hope so too, but I doubt it.

      • seafoid
        June 1, 2012, 1:47 pm

        Israel does all it can to help the economy of Palestinian territories in the West Bank and nobody died the Holocaust either

      • eljay
        June 1, 2012, 1:57 pm

        >> Israel does all it can to help the economy of Palestinian territories in the West Bank …

        Yup, nothing says “we’re doing all we can to help the economy of Palestine” like maintaining a 60+ years, ON-GOING and OFFENSIVE (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder.

        This Fraudblogs dude is a real joker!

      • Woody Tanaka
        June 1, 2012, 3:28 pm

        “Israel does all it can to help the economy of Palestinian territories in the West Bank”

        Except, of course, getting rid of the settler pigs polluting the place, getting rid of the terrorists in IDF uniform who go around killing people, opening the borders to permit the Palestinians to control their lives, and stuff like that.

      • Bumblebye
        June 1, 2012, 3:41 pm

        Where the L do you get your nonsense from??
        How is the Palestinian economy helped by Israel when its colonists wantonly destroy crops by burning or uprooting? As someone who visits this blog, you must have read of innumerable incidents by now, documented by various groups.
        How is the Palestinian economy helped by Israel when its Occupation Forces hold up crops at checkpoints until they rot in the heat? Again, you must, as a regular reader of this blog, have seen innumberable documented incidents of this happening.
        How is the Palestinian economy helped by Israel when its armed militant settlers, aided and abetted by the Occupation Forces, block access to farmland, steal farmland for settlement use, steal water sources for settlement use, poison wells, destroy water tanks, attack and beat or shoot farmers and farmworkers, etc? Again many instances documented on this blog.
        So, again, how does Israel do “all it can to help the economy of Palestinian territories”? Got any links at all, or any kind of proof?

      • Sumud
        June 1, 2012, 10:06 pm

        Israel does all it can to help the economy of Palestinian territories in the West Bank,

        This is not what you said before. In response to seafood’s question:

        How would you describe Israel’s policy of pauperisation of the Palestinians, Fred?

        You said:

        I’d describe it as non-existent.

        So you acknowledge that Israel has done all it can to crush the economy in Gaza? Or are you actually denying that Palestinians in Gaza are Palestinians??

        As for the West Bank: Israel’s theft of Palestinian natural resources (the most prominent: water), demolition of homes and businesses, uprooting of a million plus olives trees, hundreds of checkpoints, restrictions on entry into the West Bank and control of Palestine’s borders are all designed to damage the economy and perpetuate poverty in the West Bank.

        Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat on Sky News a few years ago – he gives a breakdown of average annual incomes for comparison, starting at 2:30:
        • jews in Jerusalem: $16,000
        • jews in Israel: $24,000
        • arabs in Jerusalem: $4,000
        • arabs in West Bank: $800

        This is not an accident. Palestinians do not have sovereignty. Israel’s long-term plan to destroy them has not worked – because they have sumud and a genuine love for the land, unlike the settlers who pillage and pollute it.

      • Sumud
        June 1, 2012, 10:16 pm

        Got any links at all, or any kind of proof?

        Fredblogs will supply no proof.

        Ziobots like him remind me of The Picture of Dorian Gray. In their mind Israel is beautiful, moral and untarnished – the hasbara they spout says so – but the reality is obviously very different. They lack the courage to confront it.

    • eljay
      May 31, 2012, 8:15 am

      >> Remember folks, forcing other people to not buy things isn’t a boycott, it’s extortion.

      Remember folks, using terrorism, ethnic cleansing and a 60+ years, ON-GOING and OFFENSIVE (i.e., not defensive) campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, colonization, destruction and murder to create and maintain an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist and supremacist state isn’t “self-determination”, it’s immorality and injustice.

      • Fredblogs
        May 31, 2012, 12:55 pm

        Do you really re-type that same paragraph every time or do you have a macro key for it. You could save time that way, or just keeping it permanently in your clipboard.

      • eljay
        May 31, 2012, 1:10 pm

        >> Do you really re-type that same paragraph every time or do you have a macro key for it. You could save time that way …

        I re-type it every time. It’s an effort worth making.

        Do you copy-and-paste from some Israeli / Zio-supremacist propaganda handbook all the hateful and immoral Zio-supremacist garbage you write, or does it come freshly-dredged from your mind, and manually-keyed, every time?

      • Mooser
        May 31, 2012, 5:58 pm

        Anyway, it’s nice to know that Atzmon and Fredblogs are on the same side concerning BDS. Scratch an Israeli, and you’ll find an Israeli, every time.

      • Fredblogs
        May 31, 2012, 7:14 pm

        Actually Mooser, I’m an American. I believe I have pointed this out to you before, but I could be mistaken.

      • Mooser
        May 31, 2012, 8:46 pm

        Actually Mooser, I’m an American. I believe I have pointed this out to you before, but I could be mistaken.”

        Oh you definitely are mistaken. From everything I’ve read from you, America doesn’t enter into your identity, nor into your thinking, at all.

        But by the way, how can you stand it here, when Israel needs you so, and here you have to see Christmas decorations? When are you going alley-oop or whatever it is?

      • Mooser
        May 31, 2012, 8:50 pm

        Oh, BTW, Ferdbloss, I don’t want to scare you, but one of the basic tenets of an American is “all men are created equal”. Disgusting, isn’t it? No allowance for chooseness, no Biblical land deeds. But that’s the way it is, as imperfectly as we realise it.
        Why would you stay in a place where your true worth can’t be recognised?

      • Annie Robbins
        May 31, 2012, 9:37 pm

        Why would you stay in a place where your true worth can’t be recognized?

        he’s a glutton for punishment! can’t you tell?

      • Annie Robbins
        May 31, 2012, 9:47 pm

        I’m an American….. but I could be mistaken…I don’t know why you have to hate Israel, but you do…I believe I have pointed this out to you before, but I could be mistaken..I’m an American..I don’t know why you, I don’t know why you, I don’t know why you.. I could be mistaken you have to hate Israel..

      • Mooser
        May 31, 2012, 10:14 pm

        “Oh you definitely are mistaken. From everything I’ve read from you, America doesn’t enter into your identity, nor into your thinking, at all.”

        Now don’t go away mad, Fredlags (Just…) I don’t want you to think I think you aren’t good enough to be an American. It’s just unfortunate that the union of soviet republics, a place where a man with your talents could have really shone, broke up a while back. After all hasbaratchnik is just a word I made up. But apparatchik was a real job, and paid pretty good.

    • Djinn
      May 31, 2012, 8:56 am

      You and your sad pathetic fellow travelers* quite clearly DO care Fred because you can’t help yourself jumping into any thread about BDS to loudly shout that no-one cares. It’s the one time the endless rehashing of nonsense you lot do doesn’t annoy me. It’s so transparent its hilarious.

      *not to mention the sad pathetic Knesset members who “don’t care” so much they feel the need to legislate against it

    • Woody Tanaka
      May 31, 2012, 9:59 am

      “Remember folks, forcing other people to not buy things isn’t a boycott, it’s extortion.”

      Remeber folks, if Israeli Jews destroy Palestinian lives, that’s okay, but harming Israeli products is WAY OUT OF LINE!!!!

      • Cliff
        June 1, 2012, 6:33 am


  8. Shmuel
    May 31, 2012, 2:18 am

    I wonder where they will get their information. Fresh produce from Israel and the settlements is generally marketed together without distinction, and the producers of manufactured goods like to play games – listing an address (even a POB) within the Green Line, confusing different plants, etc. Will they use Whoprofits or other Israeli groups (now liable to prosecution)? Will they refuse to sell products they can’t trace? I presume that the recent decisions about labelling in South Africa, Denmark and elsewhere will only push true source information even further underground, and the Israeli government can be counted on to help such efforts to hide sources.

    Bottom line: Migros’ decision is a step in the right direction (and provides BDS with a little media attention) but, for the most part, will probably remain a dead letter unless the company is willing to actively investigate, challenge and pressure suppliers to tell the truth, and reject all products that cannot be accurately traced. Something tells me Migros won’t bother, and it will be even harder to protest now that they’ve shown they’re willing to take some steps.

    • Ellen
      May 31, 2012, 3:49 am

      Shmuel, good points, all.

      The labeling requirement runs the likely risk of the Kimberly project — it failed because blood diamonds had a way of being washed and finding their way into the market as “clean.”

      • seafoid
        May 31, 2012, 4:08 am


        It depends on whether Israel can keep the rest in line. The big danger with YESHA is that the story spins out of Israel’s tight control. European business owes Israel nothing.

      • Ellen
        May 31, 2012, 6:51 am


        I am not optimistic.

        For one, Germany — the largest economy in Europe — has long established trade agreements with Israel, obligating Germany to import a significant amount of agricultural and other goods. That will not change in our lifetimes. Neither labeling requirements or a BDS will change that.

        As an aside, but it is related. I’ve been thinking about the “Shoah festivals” and how over the years that has been adopted as a Jewish religious celebration. The absolute heinousness of those crimes, and everything related to it, took place in Europe and included various groups as well, but how does the memory of this make it a Jewish religious holiday/celebration?

        It seems to make as much sense as if the Catholic Church adopted religious festivals in memory of Cromwell’s Catholic population purges in Ireland, or the forced starvation policies onto the Irish Catholic population. Of course that would be absurd to do so for the obvious reasons.

        But the “Shoah festivities” have been adopted into Judaism. Is this to institutionalize the idea that Europe will owe all of Judaism — and the Israeli Jewish state — forever and ever?

      • Citizen
        May 31, 2012, 10:44 am

        So seafoid, how does Ellen’s comment about blood diamonds fit into your POV?

      • seafoid
        May 31, 2012, 12:18 pm

        There is more money in the diamond value chain than there is in settler vegetables. So cheating was economically compelling in Galut.

        Diamonds are sui generis. Settler vegetables are replaceable commodities. I think Israel will have a hard job selling YESHA over the next 5 years. So cheating is not so compelling in Galut.

      • seafoid
        May 31, 2012, 4:51 pm


        If Israel was confined to the 78% of Palestine it seized in 1948 it would be untouchable by now. If nobody in Germany aged it would be untouchable. If Israel could control the narrative it would be untouchable. If there was no internet and information was hard to get Israel would be untouchable. If young Jews were too afraid to speak out Israel would be untouchable. If the world economy wasn’t at the beginning of a long crisis Israel would be untouchable.

        There are just too many parts that are moving against Israel. And I can’t see Israel commanding the loyalty of people in Europe under 30. And when the people shift the politics will.

        Like Obama and gay marriage.

        “There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader,” Alexandre Ledru-Rollin (1807-1874), a French politician is reputed to have said.

      • Mooser
        May 31, 2012, 6:00 pm

        “But the “Shoah festivities” have been adopted into Judaism.”

        Well, there’s no business like….

      • Ellen
        June 1, 2012, 6:51 pm

        Seafood , I think I understand what you mean, but am not so optimistic. It maybbe for Europe, but is not so formthe Us.

        If the US really goes off the cliff in the next few decades, it might be possible. But for now even the under 30 set working in government is completely afraid of everything Israel.

        Just mention the word Israel in any Ccongressional office to a young staffer and like Pavlovian dogs they will sputter out all the lines of Israel love they have been programmed to repeat.

    • seafoid
      May 31, 2012, 4:06 am

      It depends on whether or not others follow, Shmuel.
      Labelling and verifying adds to the cost of Israeli products- Egyptian produce doesn’t have this political loading. Maybe companies will just drop Israel altogether.

      Israel’s fear is that this decision is taken by other supermarkets and countries. Behind all the arrogance Israel is actually very vulnerable.

      Europeans here in Middle Galut are not prepared to underwrite YESHA for much longer. I don’t think Israeli Jews get this.

      There’s a very good piece in the Irish Times today about BDS. Media all over Europe have been suppressing the story . Rafeef Ziada went to Ireland and nobody interviewed her. I wonder for how much longer this kind of media behaviour will be acceptable.


      The Irish Times – Thursday, May 31, 2012

      Defence of artistic freedom ignores Palestinian plight
      OPINION: Debates about the cultural boycott of Israel forget the violent dispossession of Palestinians and the belligerent occupation, writes RAYMOND DEANE
      IN MID-MAY, the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign presented a tour of Ireland featuring, among others, the Palestinian-Canadian performance poet Rafeef Ziadah and the Palestinian-Israeli singer Terez Sliman.
      These artists are also articulate advocates of the Palestinian cause and of the cultural boycott of Israel. They were made available for interview to the media, including The Irish Times, but there were no takers. This becomes less surprising when one reflects that Irish media outlets scarcely mentioned the recent hunger strike by up to 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners, described by Jewish Voice for Peace as “a new chapter in the history of non-violent resistance”.
      Had they been interviewed, these Palestinian artists would surely have repeated their comparison of the boycott to a picket line which conscientious people would not normally cross because they respect the wishes of those who are fighting exploitation.
      They would have mentioned the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice that Israel’s construction of a wall on Palestinian territory was “contrary to international law” and that governments were “under an obligation not to . . . render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such construction”.
      They would have clarified that in 2005 the failure of governments to act on this obligation, and the continuation of “aid and assistance” in the shape of trading privileges offered Israel by the EU, led over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations to call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli state until “it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights”.
      This call was followed by the foundation of the Palestinian Campaign for the Cultural and Academic Boycott of Israel, which has laid down rigorous conditions for the implementation of the cultural aspect of BDS. Citing Nelson Mandela’s dictum that “boycott is not a principle but a tactic depending on circumstances”, it emphasises that the target of this non-violent tactic is not culture per se, but its manipulation by the Israeli state.
      Visiting Israeli artists are to be welcomed unless their trip is supported by the Israeli state and/or they have performed in the illegal West Bank settlements.
      In an article in this paper on May 19th, Fintan O’Toole, without once mentioning the Palestinian origin of the BDS call, criticised the cultural boycott as “a blunt and backward instrument”. But surely it is not as blunt as F16s, Hellfire missiles, white phosphorus and the other “instruments” used by the Israeli state to terrorise, maim and murder Palestinian civilians?
      Or as backward as the wall, four times as long as the Berlin Wall, being constructed within the occupied West Bank in violation of international law, with cement provided by a subsidiary of Irish multinational CRH?
      These excesses occur on a daily basis. Meticulously documented by Israeli human rights groups like B’tselem and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions , they are practically ignored by our media and fail to trigger sanctions by EU governments that are mandated by the human rights clause (article 3) of the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement that grants Israel significant trading privileges.
      O’Toole’s critique of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign pledge “not to avail of any invitation to perform or exhibit in Israel” because it “makes no distinction between government-sponsored events and, for example, the courageous Israeli theatre companies that present critical work” neglected to quote the Israeli foreign ministry’s assertion in 2005 that “[we] see culture as a propaganda tool of the first rank, and do not differentiate between propaganda and culture”.
      O’Toole’s injunction to artists not to “let yourself be used for propaganda purposes” underestimates the degree to which a state like Israel, which has a ministry devoted entirely to propaganda, can exploit the mere presence of foreign artists as a tool for the whitewashing and normalisation of its suppression of Palestinian rights.
      O’Toole chose not to mention prominent Israeli dissidents who support BDS, including the cultural boycott, such as the historian Ilan Pappe or Jeff Halper, co-founder of the committee against demolitions. In raising the history of anti-Semitic boycotts as an impediment to BDS, O’Toole equates the Jewish people with the state of Israel – an equation common to anti-Semites and Zionists alike – while cutting the ground from under Israeli and other Jewish opponents of that state’s violations of Palestinian rights.
      Finally, O’Toole’s criteria for a “code of conduct for artists and performers in relation to regimes that egregiously abuse human rights” included well-meaning advice to artists not to “perform to audiences forcibly segregated on lines of race, gender or ethnicity”.
      This overlooks the fact that Israeli audiences will inevitably lack those forcibly excluded from attendance by the Separation Wall or the siege of Gaza. His criteria are supposed to “save [artists] from being pressured”, but why should artists, unlike other citizens, be absolved from reflecting on the possible consequences of their actions?
      A similarly narrow view of artistic responsibility is found in novelist Gerard Donovan’s rambling and vindictive opinion article (May 26th), in which the Palestinians merit not a mention. According to Donovan, even to request artists not to cross the Palestinian picket line constitutes “a threat”, “interference” and “intimidation”, meriting invocation of article 40 of the Constitution protecting the Irish citizen “from unjust attack”.
      The polite and formal letter from myself that prompted this article, appealing to him in three impersonal sentences not to break the boycott by attending the International Writers’ Festival in Jerusalem, was withdrawn from circulation when I learned that, because of illness, Donovan had not gone to Israel. It is now again in the public domain (Letters Page, May 29th) so readers can assess the falsehood of Donovan’s claims. In this respect, his diatribe is akin to the baseless campaign of vilification of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign because of its fictitious “intimidation” of the band Dervish.
      Consultation of Dervish’s Facebook page by some intrepid investigative journalist would have revealed that the only intimidation came from supporters of Israel.
      Equally problematic is the editorial postscript supposedly providing “background” to the article. Here it is implied the campaign invented the cultural boycott whereas, like comparable campaigns throughout the world, it merely implements the call from Palestinian civil society. Mention of this fact, however, would have entailed mentioning the Palestinians.
      Seemingly for the Irish media the Palestine issue is summed up by the imaginary “intimidation” of Irish artists, who are apparently exempt from appeals to their consciences, rather than the violent dispossession of the Palestinians and the belligerent occupation of their lands by the rogue Israeli state.
      In October 2010, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, revered veteran of the South African Anti-Apartheid campaign, appealed to Cape Town Opera to call off a tour of Israel “until both Israeli and Palestinian opera lovers of the region have equal opportunity and unfettered access to attend performances”. Shortly before his death, Kader Asmal, founder of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, expressed his support for “calls around the world to disrupt normal relations with Israel, by boycotting cultural and academic activities, by disrupting trade relations . . . and by pressurising governments to impose economic sanctions.”
      The momentum of the peaceful tactic of BDS, including the cultural boycott of Israel, is global and unstoppable.
      Raymond Deane is a composer and cultural liaison officer of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign

      Harry Browne
      A fine, overdue addition to the debate. But the ongoing bad faith of the Irish Times on this matter is displayed in large type in the headline. Not only is it misleading, since Raymond Deane’ s article makes no argument about ” artistic freedom” ; it’ s also a complete red herring, since no one contests the freedom of artists to travel to Israel: they have been asked of their own free will to cooperate with a completely voluntary boycott. The choice of photo is also rather prejudicial. Meanwhile, for ” balance” over on the letters page, Deane is compared to a Mafia don, making ” an offer you can’ t refuse” — clearly implying a violent threat — and Edward Said is enlisted in opposition to a boycott call that was made after his death. So much for the ” right to reply” .

  9. kamanja
    May 31, 2012, 3:47 am

    I’ve been wondering about this and am glad a discussion site has now picked it up. Migros is more than Switzerland’s biggest supermarket chain. Migros runs Switzerland’s the fifth-largest bank, gas stations, travel agencies, a gardening chain of stores, department stores, cafés and restaurants that sell Migros prepared foods and heaven knows what else I don’t know about. It also runs the biggest supermarket chain in Turkey.

    I was wondering whether their decision was limited to food in its supermarkets or whether it has ramifications that haven’t yet been explored. As to whether it will actively carry through, it’s solid reputation for doing that would suffer if it doesn’t.

  10. kamanja
    May 31, 2012, 3:52 am

    Correction: Migros co-founded the biggest supermarket chain in Turkey. Should read instead of trusting my memory. Here’s Wikipedia on them:

  11. HarryLaw
    May 31, 2012, 8:42 am

    Migros will also axe “made in Israel” tags, said Monika Weibel. The chain previously identified the products as coming from Israel, very kind of her to say they will continue to deceive her customers until 2013, even then I don’t think the Israelis who are responsible for the labelling in the first instance will comply, that would be as good as admitting the truth as found in the European Court of Justice in 2010 Brita GmbH v Hauptzollamp Hamberg Hafen case number C386/08 the verdict of the court was ” Goods manufactured in West Bank cannot be considered made in Israel and that the West Bank is not a part of the state of Israel as defined by article 83 of the Israel- Euro med agreement and the corresponding article in the PLO for the PA-Euro Med agreement, unfortunately Switzerland is not a member of the EU and so the CPUTR 2008 does not apply to them, I am sure other consumer laws they have would, how about fraud.

    • seafoid
      May 31, 2012, 4:57 pm

      I think with the wide availability of smartphones it should be easy enough to develop an app that reads Israeli labels and says which part of Israel/Erez Israel the produce comes from. It would not be difficult to have an email sent automatically to the supermarket in question upon finding something from YESHA.

      Israel likes tech in the form of computer worms but tech can also be used to bring Israel down.

  12. Djinn
    May 31, 2012, 8:47 am

    A good first step. MUCH better than Oz retailers Coles, who labelled Israeli produce as Australian (and copped fines under Trades Practices thanks to an eagle eyed activist) and Safeway who omit country of origin labels altogether when they occasionally sell Israeli grapefruits & mandarins. Safeway then responds with fluffy guff when queried about it and denies that they hide country of origin (well at least until I showed them the photos I took, then I got a “whoops musta been a mistake”)

    Regardless of how one feels about BDS even if someone objects to it 100% they’d have a hard time arguing why others shouldn’t be free to make consumer decisions on their own based on TRUTHFUL labelling.

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