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EU high court: member states must clearly label Israeli settlement products

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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.”

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.”

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.”

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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3 Responses

  1. JLewisDickerson on November 14, 2019, 7:07 pm

    RE: 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.” ~ from above

    SEE: “Israeli Settlement Defenders Once Again Turn To False Antisemitism Claims Amid European Court Decision” | By Mitchell Plitnick | | November 14, 2019

    [EXCERPTS] . . . The Israeli argument is that the EU law is discriminatory, singling out Israel while ignoring similar situations elsewhere. Israel further argues that such laws contradict the principle of not pre-determining outcomes of final status issues under the Oslo Accords, and as a result makes “peace” harder to achieve. Leading occupation apologist and law professor Eugene Kontorovich summarizes the argument: “This is not about consumer protection, it is about adopting a unique legal standard for the Jewish state. The EU labels for these Jewish products are also unique among all product labeling in that they are not geographic — they are not about ‘where’ something was made but by ‘whom,’” he said.

    As Kontorovich demonstrates, the Israeli argument rests, as so many do, on the idea that the EU law is simply an extension of the global antisemitic conspiracy, the universal hatred of Jews that finds its expression in any opposition to, or even disagreement with, Israeli policies. This threadbare argument is increasingly becoming the main argument in defense of Israeli stances and policies. That is why it’s important that we confront it clearly and firmly.

    Singling out Israel. Kontorovich alleges that the EU labeling law is “a unique standard for the Jewish state.” His terminology there is not accidental, it is meant to imply an accusation of antisemitism. But there is nothing unique about this standard for the West Bank (and, notably, this judgment would apply as well to products of Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights). In February 2018, the European Court ruled that products that came from Moroccan settlements in Western Sahara cannot share in any trade agreements between Morocco and Europe, the same regulation, based on the same principle of international law, which governs Israeli products from its settlements. Even in the midst of Brexit, the United Kingdom affirmed in April that the ruling on Western Sahara was binding there as well.

    Another example might be Crimea. One might compare Russia’s seizure of the peninsula and its use of Crimean resources for its own export purposes to Israel’s establishment of settlements which generate products for export. And in this case, Kontorovich would be correct, there is a clear double standard at work. Russia faces harsh international sanctions over its occupation of Crimea. It is important to note that those sanctions object to Russia’s occupation, and would have the same force whether the desired resolution was an independent Crimea or returning the peninsula to Ukraine. This counters the Israeli argument that it isn’t really occupying the West Bank since it was previously under Jordanian occupation and was not an independent Palestinian state. This point, repeated often, is irrelevant to the condition of occupation.

    Sanctions over Crimea have had a severe impact on the Russian economy. Yet Israel’s occupation, which pre-dates Russia’s by nearly half a century and is much more entrenched, has elicited no such response from the United States or the European Union. Presumably, this is a double standard to which Kontorovich and the Israeli government do not object. And the one to which they have objected does not exist.

    Clearly, with no double standard employed, the accusation of antisemitism evaporates like the chimera it is. The idea that the Oslo Accords somehow demand recognition of Israel’s settlements as a part of Israel is even more absurd. Even setting aside the complete disregard Israel has shown for key provisions of the Accords from the outset—particularly the commitment to refrain from changing the status quo conditions on the ground—and ignoring the manifest collapse of the Accords, there is simply no basis to infer that Oslo granted any legitimacy on the settlements. Under international law, the settlements are illegal. The fact that Israel, supported by the United States, challenges that truth does not confer legality, temporary or otherwise, on them.

    To the contrary, it is Israel that is demanding unique and special standards here…

    . . . Double standards are rightly decried, and Israel should not benefit, nor face penalties from them. The claim that the latter is occurring is demonstrably false and cannot be excused as a mistake. It is a blatant lie, and when that happens, it means you’re trying to enact a double standard to your benefit. That’s what Israel is doing.


  2. Kay24 on November 14, 2019, 9:03 pm

    They are known to mislabel products, so expect their usual dishonest tactics. They are masters at deceptions.

    “On July 6, six months after I drew their attention to the fact that the wines were labelled “Made in Israel” at the website of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), even though they were actually produced from grapes grown in the heart of the occupied Palestinian territories, the CFIA finally instructed the LCBO to cease importation or sale of the red and white wine products until labeling issues were resolved.” Mondoweiss

  3. Misterioso on November 15, 2019, 8:40 am

    Good news!

    Can you imagine the uproar that would have ensued around the world if the Nazis had labelled wines produced in occupied France as a product of Germany?

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