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Former Knesset Speaker Supports Yesha Labelling

Former Knesset Speaker Burg supports recent decisions by several countries to label products that from Judea and Samaria.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 6/8/2012, 1:18 AM

Avraham Burg
Avraham Burg
Flash 90

Former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg has expressed support for recent decisions by several countries to label products that were produced in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria (Yehuda and Shomron).

Switzerland’s largest supermarket chain, Migros, announced last week that it will label such products, citing its desire to offer customers greater transparency.

The chain’s decision came several days after South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry announced that products produced by Israeli companies in Judea and Samaria cannot be labeled as products of Israel.

Denmark is planning a similar step, and will mark all products from Judea and Samaria with a special sticker. A minister explained the policy aims to give customers “full information” regarding products’ origins.

In an opinion piece published in the British Independent on Thursday, Burg wrote, “Since 2009, the United Kingdom has been taking measures, in accordance with European consumer protection rules, to ensure that settlement products – goods you might find on your supermarket shelves that have been produced in the occupied Palestinian territories – are no longer labelled as ‘made in Israel’.

“Contrary to what you may think,” wrote the former Knesset Speaker, “EU member states which take these measures act in Israel's interest. They do so because they take steps that defend and reinforce the Green Line, the pre-1967 border between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

“The Green Line is of decisive importance to achieving Middle East peace. It is the line that was drawn in green pencil on the maps that were on the table at the time of the cease-fire agreements between Israel and the Arab states, signed in 1949. Regrettably, this line survived only until the 1967 war.”

Burg claimed, “The large-scale and expansionist settlement enterprise erodes the Green Line every day. Residential communities, now housing more than 500,000 settlers, were established within occupied Palestinian territory in order to make us forget the Green Line's existence and prevent the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. It should long have been clear to every Israeli that anything located inside the Green Line is the democratic, legal, normative Israel, and anything beyond the line is something else: undemocratic, illegal, not normative. Not ours.

“But the Israeli people's eyes are blind, their ears are deaf and their leaders are flaccid and weak. This is precisely the situation in which civilized societies urgently need feedback and intervention from the outside.”

He added that “It is not anti-Semitic and not anti-Israel to convey these messages. On the contrary: the settlers, the conquerors and their political allies – including Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel – are the real enemies of Israel's future.”

According to Burg, “Preventing the mislabelling of settlement products as ‘made in Israel’ and blocking their preferential entry into the EU seems a symbolic and minor step. However, in the present circumstances, it is a giant leap for Middle East peace, which seems more remote than ever.

“Contrary to what you may be told, this is not a sweeping boycott of Israel, but a subtle and moral distinction that marks the difference between Israel's great potential and its destructive capabilities.”

Burg, who was previously an activist with the extreme leftist Peace Now, served as a Member of Knesset for the Labor party on and off between 1992 and 2004. He served as Knesset Speaker between 1999 and 2003. He resigned from public life in 2004.

In 2003, he published an article in the Hebrew-language Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper in which he declared, “Israel, having ceased to care about the children of the Palestinians, should not be surprised when they come washed in hatred and blow themselves up in the centers of Israeli escapism.”