The European Union’s highest court has ruled that products made in Israeli settlements must be clearly labeled as such when being sold on shelves in EU countries.
Previously only an advisory opinion by the EU, the judgement on origin-identifying labelling will now become law and mandatory practice for its 28 member states.
“Foodstuffs originating in the territories occupied by the State of Israel must bear the indication of their territory of origin,” the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said in its ruling on Tuesday.
The case was brought before the court by Israeli settlement winery Psagot, which filed a lawsuit against the French government in 2017 after France decided to enforce the suggested EU guidelines on the labelling of settlement goods.
Settlement products cannot simply be labeled as “made in Israel,” Tuesday’s ruling said, which producers of settlement goods had argued is sufficient, and that labelling their goods as otherwise would make them susceptible to international boycott movements.
“The state of Israel is present in the territories concerned as an occupying power and not as a sovereign entity,” the court said, adding that failure to accurately label the point of origin of goods could be “deceptive” and “might mislead consumers.”
“Indication of the territory of origin of the foodstuffs in question is mandatory…in order to prevent consumers from being misled as to the fact that the State of Israel is present in the territories concerned as an occupying power and not as a sovereign entity.”
The court emphasized the importance of conscious consumerism, saying that in the absence of proper labelling, “consumers have no way of knowing…that a foodstuff comes from a locality or a set of localities constituting a settlement established in one of those territories in breach of the rules of international humanitarian law.”
Consumers must be able to “make informed choices,” the court noted, highlighting the fact that such ethical considerations “could influence consumers’ purchasing decisions.”
The court went on to say that settlements “are characterised by the fact that they give concrete expression to a policy of population transfer conducted by that State outside its territory, in violation of the rules of general international humanitarian law.”
The decision was welcomed by human rights advocates across the globe, and met with fierce criticism and claims of anti-Semitism by Israel and its supporters.
Human Rights Watch’s EU Director Lottie Leicht praised the ruling as an “important step toward EU member states upholding their duty not to participate in the fiction that illegal settlements are part of Israel.”
A monumental decision today by the European Court of Justice to require the labeling of goods originating in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. European consumers entitled to be confident that products they purchase aren't linked to serious rights abuses. @hrw reacts pic.twitter.com/KjEAVV8jbW
— Omar Shakir (@OmarSShakir) November 12, 2019
The US State Department issued a statement saying the American government was “deeply concerned” about the court’s decision, which it says was “suggestive of anti-Israel bias.”
“This requirement serves only to encourage, facilitate, and promote boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel,” the statement continued, saying that the US “unequivocally opposes any effort to engage in BDS, or to otherwise economically pressure, isolate, or otherwise delegitimize Israel.”
“America stands with Israel against efforts to economically pressure, isolate, or delegitimize it,” the statement concluded.
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its strong rejection of the ruling, saying its “entire objective is to single out and apply a double standard against Israel.”
Israel strongly rejects the recent ruling of the European Court of Justice @EUCourtPress, which serves as a tool in the political campaign against Israel.
Today’s ruling is both political and discriminating against Israel.
— Israel Foreign Ministry (@IsraelMFA) November 12, 2019
Psagot, the winery that filed the suit, said they were “proud of its contribution to the fight against this decision and intends to continue the struggle. We are pleased to see the support of all the relevant people in Israel and the United States, including the state department, senators and congressmen.”