South Africa’s ambassador told a senior Foreign Ministry official on Sunday at a
late night meeting that he would look into Pretoria’s policy on labeling goods
from the settlements and get back to him, Israeli officials said on
But reflecting confusion over the whole issue, Eugene Grobler, a
political counselor at South Africa’s embassy in Tel Aviv, denied any such
meeting had taken place, and said that the embassy was waiting for a
confirmation of a date for a meeting.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman,
however, insisted that a meeting between the deputy director-general for Africa,
Avi Granot, and the South African envoy, Ismail Coovadia, did take place. The
official stressed, however, that this was not to deliver a reprimand, but only
to establish the facts of South Africa’s polices concerning the labeling of
goods originating in settlements.
The meeting came at the end of a day
during which the Foreign Ministry said that Coovadia had been
Another meeting with the ambassador at the ministry is
expected later this week.
South African Trade and Industry Minister Rob
Davies published a notice in the government’s gazette two weeks ago saying that
products that “originate from the Occupied Palestinians Territory” must not be
labeled as made in Israel.
Israel’s strong reaction to the move was
intended, one government official said, to get the South African government to
step away from the policy before it became official. It also seemed intended to
send a message to other countries that such moves would be fiercely resisted by
In a related development, the University of KwaZulu- Natal
canceled a lecture Monday that was to be given by Israel’s deputy ambassador to
South Africa, Yaakov Finkelstein.
The decision to cancel the event, made
both by the vice chancellor of the university and Israeli representatives, came
in light of massive demonstrations organized by anti-Israel groups at the
The Israeli Embassy said that once it was felt that Finkelstein
might be in danger, the decision was jointly made to postpone the
Hila Stern, the spokeswoman at the embassy in Pretoria, said the
lecture was part of the embassy’s usual academic cultural cooperation
“We are sorry that anti-Israeli elements have embarked on a
campaign of intellectual terror that rejects everything academia believes in:
Dialogue, discussions, research, understanding and freedom of speech.
use of bullying to silence freedom of expression in an academic setting is a
very sad development,” she said.
The decision to cancel the lecture was
not directly related to the settlement-labeling issue, one Israeli official
said, though he added that the South African government was creating an
atmosphere where this type of “bullying” against Israel could take place.