BERLIN – A German NGO started a grassroots online petition last week to urge
Chancellor Angela Merkel not to move forward with a labeling system for products
originating in the West Bank because of the adverse consequences it would have
The pro-Israel German Media Watch organization started the
petition, titled “Call against the labeling of Israeli merchandise,” with the
goal of blunting the German Green Party’s aggressive Bundestag initiative
calling for demarcating products made in the West Bank.
In response to
the Green Party’s initiative, the government stated, “In our view, it is
permissible to label products with the ‘Made in Israel’ sticker only if those
products are manufactured within the 1967 borders.”
Dr. Asaf Romirowsky,
the acting executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME),
and a leading expert on the boycott, sanctions and divestment (BDS) movement,
told The Jerusalem Post
on Monday that he “commends” the
“Labeling products from any part of Israel has become a
pervasive BDS tactic which is contrary to any search for peace, since it
represents a form of misguided economic warfare. Further, it is directly in
opposition to decades of agreements between Israeli and Arab Palestinians, in
which both sides pledged to negotiate a peaceful settlement and a commitment to
a two-state solution, but only Israel has repeatedly made concessions for
peace,” he said.
Stressing the disparate treatment imposed on Israel, the
authors of the petition wrote only products from the territorial conflict with
respect to Jewish settlements are targeted and other conflict regions are
excluded, including northern Cyprus, Morocco, China and India. The petition
added that the “argument of better consumer protection has only an alibi
function” and will “make it easier for groups hostile to Israel“ to convince
consumers not to buy Israeli products. The text added that Germany has a special
responsibility toward Israel.
The petition – which appears in German,
Italian and English – has attracted a number of well-know figures in the Federal
Republic, including Stephan J. Kramer, the secretary-general of the Central
Council of Jews in Germany, and Sacha Stawski, the head of both the NGO “I like
Israel” and the media watchdog group Honestly Concerned.
a board member of the German-Israeli Friendship Society (DIG) in Frankfurt
signed the petition.
Critics say the national leadership of the DIG,
including Reinhold Robbe, the current president, has failed to tackle the
campaign to label products from settlements. In an email exchange between the
German-Jewish author Henryk M. Broder and Robbe that was obtained by the Post
Broder criticized the DIG head for not stating his opposition in a large German
Robbe issued a comment to the Jewish community’s newspaper
Jüdische Allgemeine Zeitung questioning why Israel was singled out, and stressed
to Broder that he has a lot on his plate and cannot comment on every event.
Broder wrote that the labeling initiative is an anti-Israel – and at its core,
anti-Semitic – campaign of the Greens, in which a leading member of the DIG is
The Green Party MP Marieluise Beck is a leading member of the
DIG and played a key role in pushing her party’s initiative in the Bundestag to
label products made in the West Bank. She declined to be interviewed for this
dispatch but proposed a meeting with the Post
Broder called on
Robbe to write an open letter to Beck or the Green Party. Robbe did not reply to
media query about the alleged failures of the DIG and his tenure at the
German government-funded friendship organization.