Op-Ed: Exclusive: How Europe Boycotts Israel's Goods
Last week Israel registered a protest with the European Union regarding a conference scheduled in Brussels about labeling goods made in the "settlements".
Mary Robinson, who served as president of Ireland and UN high commissioner for Human Rights, and Martti Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland and Nobel peace prize winner, just penned in The Guardian an essay asking Europe to boycott Israeli goods produced beyond the armistice line.
"The EU could start by differentiating between Israeli goods and those produced in illegal Israeli settlements", they write in the British daily. "Correct labelling of settlement goods is not an anti-Israeli policy. It is pro-consumer, pro-peace and pro-international law".
Two weeks ago 22 NGOs, including Christian Aid, Ireland's Trocaire, the Methodist Church in Britain, the Church of Sweden, France's Terre Solidaire and Germany's medico international, called on the European Union to ban "products made by Israeli settlers in the occupied territories".
A few days earlier, the UN's special rapporteur Richard Falk also called for a boycott of companies linked to Israeli "settlements".
A major boycott of Israel victory has been achieved in Durban, South Africa, where one of the largest international trade unions, the Public Services International, voted to fully support and advance the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel campaign.
This is the last in a long list of trade unions which embraced or supported the boycott of Israel: the French labor union, the Confédération Nationale du Travail; Fiom, which is a member of main Italian trade union; the Trade Union Congress in the UK; Impact, the largest public-sector union in the Republic of Ireland, and the Public Service Alliance, the largest public-sector union in Northern Ireland; the Swedish Trade Union Federation.
After South Africa instructed commercial importers not to use the label “Product of Israel” for goods manufactured in Judea and Samaria, the Danish government also announced the adoption of this policy. The move follows a British decision to allow retailers to distinguish whether goods are “Israeli settlement produce” or “Palestinian produce.”
Other European countries will adopt this racist policy, according to a decision taken in 2010 by the EU high court: the “disputed areas” are not part of Israel, so Israeli goods made there are subject to EU import duties. The historic ruling stemmed from a German case filed by Brita GmbH, a German company that imports drink-makers for sparkling water from Soda Club, an Israeli company based in Mishor Adumim, one of Israel’s industrial areas in the Judea and Samaria.
Goods -- including fruit, vegetables, cosmetics, textiles and toys -- worth €220 million are exported to the EU from "settlements" each year.
The value of agricultural products in the Jordan Valley "settlements" is estimated at about €100 million per year. More than 80% of dates from the Jordan valley are grown for export, mainly France, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries. Ahava makes $17 million in profit from exports every year in products sold across Europe in branded Ahava stores as well as in pharmacies and retail chains. SodaStream produces home devices for carbonation of water and soft drinks. Its products, also known under the brand name Soda Club, are manifactured in the industrial zone of Ma’ale Adumim.
The UK government is labelling guidelines advising retailers that food products from settlements be labelled as “produce of the West Bank (Israeli settlement produce)” and palestinian produce as “produce of the West Bank (palestinian produce)”. The guidelines were welcomed by food retailers and appear to be observed by major supermarkets. Moreover, it appears that following the introduction of these guidelines, major supermarkets have decided to stop sourcing own-branded food products from the settlements.
In Norway, two of the main importers of vegetables, Bama and Coop, have written agreements with their suppliers in Israel stating that fruit and vegetables produced in settlements shall not be supplied to them. The UK Co-operative Group ended all trade with suppliers that source produce from both Israeli settlements and Israel itself. The Co-op cancelled its contracts (worth £350,000) with four of its Israeli suppliers (Agrexco, Mehadrin, Arava, and Adafresh).
Norway’s oil fund withdrew its investment from Africa-Israel and Danya Cebus citing involvement in “settlement construction.” The Swedish co-op terminated all purchases of Soda devices. Unilever, which makes household staples such as the Sunsilk shampoo and Vaseline, sold its 51% stake in the Beigel’s settlements factories.
We obtained a copy of the document just released by the Europen Union with a list of the Israeli locations beyond the Green Line.
The document is meant to support "the exclusion of settlement goods from preferential treatment". It's a very detailed list of all the Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria which must be isolated, targeted and boycotted, including the postal code and the name of the city, village or industrial zone where production conferring status has taken place appear on all proofs of preferential origin issued or made out in Israel.
A note clearly states: "Operators are advised to consult the list before lodging a customs declaration for releasing goods for free circulation in support of which they intend to provide proof of preferential origin issued or made out in Israel. If they find the postal code appearing on the proof of origin in their possession in the list of non-eligible locations, they should refrain from claiming preference". The communities listed are non eligible for duty-free status under the 1995 EU-Israel Free Trade Agreement.
There is also the correct spelling in Hebrew, from Merom Golan to Beit El, Sha'arei Tikva and Elkana, Alfei Menashe and Bracha, Halamish ("also named Neve Tzuf") and Kiryat Arba, Psagot and Ofra.
This boycott blacklist not only violates international free trade, it is an obstacle to Mideast coexistence and constitutes the revival of racism.
The EU boycott is reminiscent of the 1933 first Nazi boycott of Jews, in which youth held posters in German and English urging the boycott: “Germans, defend yourselves against Jewish atrocity propaganda.”
The poster of the boycott lobby now says: “Europeans, defend yourselves against Israeli atrocity propaganda.” Where is the difference?
There is also the same feeling of helplessness expressed by the great philolog Viktor Klemperer, a witness of the Nazi boycott: "The boycott begins tomorrow. Yellow placards, men on guard. Pressure to pay Christian employees two months salary, to dismiss Jewish ones. No reply to the impressive letter of the Jews to the President of the Reich and to the government. No one dares make a move".
Replace placards with labels, Christian with European and Jewish with Israeli. No one dares make a move.