Israel said Wednesday that a South African decision to mandate special labels on
products coming from settlements is exclusion and discrimination that “brings to
mind ideas of a racist nature which the government of South Africa, more than
any other, should have wholly rejected.”
The harsh statement issued by
the Foreign Ministry 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.”
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
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, 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
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.
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