Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon took a stab back at South African authorities Wednesday, following their decision to mandate special labels on products coming from settlements, for the killing of 34 striking platinum miners, the bloodiest operation since the end of white rule.
"Unfortunately it turns out that the changes that took place in South Africa over the years have not brought about basic changes in the country, and it remains an Apartheid state," Ayalon charged.
"At the moment, South African Apartheid is directed at Israel and against miners in South Africa itself. Instead of making decisions about labeling Israeli products, it would be advisable for the South African government to take brave decisions about the 34 miners," he added
The Foreign Ministry also released a statement Wednesday, saying South Africa's decision “brings to mind ideas of a racist nature which the government of South Africa, more than any other, should have wholly rejected.”
The Israeli backlash followed the South African cabinet’s decision to approve a plan to require labels on products coming from the settlements so that they do not read “Made in Israel.”
The South African government’s approval came about three months after the plan was first broached by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, and despite a flood of protests from South African Jews and other pro-Israel supporters in the country.
The Foreign Ministry statement said the measure adopted was unprecedented and constituted “blatant discrimination based on national and political distinction. This kind of discrimination has not been imposed – and rightly so – in any other case of national, territorial or ethnic conflict. Israel and South Africa have political differences, and that is legitimate. What is totally unacceptable is the use of tools which, by essence, discriminate and single out, fostering a general boycott.” The Foreign Ministry will summon the South African ambassador Thursday to register its displeasure.
The South African cabinet issued a statement saying it “approved that a notice in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, 2008, be issued by the minister of Trade and Industry requiring the labeling of goods or products emanating from IOTs (Israel Occupied Territories) to prevent consumers being led to believe that such goods come from Israel. This is in line with South Africa’s stance that recognizes the 1948 borders delineated by the United Nations and does not recognize occupied territories beyond these borders as being part of the State of Israel.”
The decision came at a cabinet meeting where the government also noted the “importance” of South Africa’s participation in the upcoming Non- Aligned Movement meeting in Tehran.
The UN never delineated borders in 1948, so it is not clear whether the South African government is referring to the 1947 UN Partition Plan or the 1949 Armistice Lines.
Avrom Krengel, the chairman of the South African Zionist Federation and South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein, issued a statement saying the South African Jewish community was “outraged” over the cabinet’s decision.
“In acting in so cavalier a manner, the government has not only bypassed the consultation process set in motion by the notice but shown itself to be completely dismissive of Jewish concerns,” the statement said.
The Jewish community was denied “any meaningful opportunity” of explaining its position to the government, the statement said.
“It is the firm belief of the Jewish communal leadership that the proposed measures are discriminatory, divisive and inconsistent with South African trade policy and seriously flawed from both an administrative and procedural point of view,” the statement read. “At bottom, they are believed to be motivated not by technical trade concerns but by political bias against the State of Israel. All attempts to discuss these concerns, however, have come to nothing.”
While the EU since 2003 has required Israeli exporters to specify on their export invoices where their products are made, so that products manufactured in settlements would not enjoy the same duty-free status as those manufactured inside the Green Line, the products themselves never bore any “settlement” label. The South African policy is the first at a national level, though both Denmark and Ireland have spoken of following suit.
The step is certain to make even worse already strained ties between Jerusalem and Pretoria.
Last week the Foreign Ministry said that a call by South Africa’s deputy foreign minister Ebrahim Ebrahim to discourage the country’s residents from going to Israel was tantamount to a South African boycott.