Israel registered a protest with the EU last week regarding a conference
scheduled for Wednesday in Brussels about the possibility of labeling goods made
in the settlements.
Rafi Schutz, the Foreign Ministry’s deputy
director-general for Europe, called the ambassadors of Denmark, Ireland and the
EU to the ministry on November 19, in the midst of Operation Pillar of Defense,
to protest the scheduled meeting, called an “informal technical workshop on
settlement products and related policy issues.”
Schutz also protested by
phone to a ranking official at the British Embassy.
Britain, Ireland and
Denmark, as well as the EU’s foreign service, were singled out for promoting the
conference along with various NGOs.
Denmark started the ball rolling on
labeling goods in Europe that came from the settlements, following a decision in
principle to do so that South Africa made earlier this year.
decision has not yet been fully implemented; one of the issues holding it up has
been how to label the goods. It was finally decided to label them “Made in
Israeli Occupied Territory.”
Schutz told the ambassadors that the move
unfairly singled out and discriminated against Israel, because while this was
not the only area in the world where there was a territorial dispute, it was the
only area in the world regarding which the EU was discussing specially labeling
For example, goods originating from northern Cyprus, Tibet,
Kashmir, the Russian-held regions of Georgia, Armenian-held regions of
Azerbaijan, and Kosovo are not specially labeled.
Schutz also said that
some of the NGOs participating in the conference, such as the Irish Trocaire,
were involved in the boycott and divestment movement against Israel. Meanwhile,
he pointed out, some NGOs that didn’t support the labeling had not been invited
to the meeting.
He also said that such a move ran contrary to the spirit
of the World Trade Organization, which calls for free trade and open borders for
This was the latest move in various EU steps related to the
settlements in recent days – steps that Israeli diplomats said were being
recommended to mollify local public opinion.
Nearly two weeks ago, a
group of EU ambassadors wrote a memo encouraging member states to “explore
possibilities of denying access of known violent settlers to the EU.”
memo also called for EU diplomats, in an effort to counter settler violence, to
recommend that “the EU missions in Tel Aviv as well as in Jerusalem and
Ramallah... step up monitoring on the Israeli authorities’ action against
violence by extremist settlers with a view to having systematic and trustworthy
In so far as possible, the EU missions could attend trials
in the most serious cases.”
While noting the “strong condemnations by the
Israeli Government of violent acts by extremist settlers,” the memo recommended
that the EU “continue to urge Israeli authorities to respect their obligations
under international humanitarian law.”
The memo said the EU would
“systematically condemn publicly serious attacks by extremist settlers and
reinforce language used in such statements. Member States willing to issue
individual statements should ensure consistency in the
According to the memo, “settler violence has developed in a
political context where the number of settlers has continued to expand, where
the political strength of the settlement movement has grown and where the
Israeli authorities have generally not taken firm action against outposts
illegal also under Israeli law, contributing to a culture of impunity in which
the violence continues.”
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