Israeli embassy slams Germany party over labeling

Embassy calls efforts of German Green Party to label products from West Bank “another try to negatively single out Israel.”

May 23, 2013 01:37
3 minute read.
protest against Jewish settlements and in a call to boycott settlement products, October 24, 2012.

West bank supermarket, boycott products illustrative 370. (photo credit: REUTERS/Ammar Awad)

BERLIN – The Israeli embassy slammed the German Green Party on Wednesday for its Bundestag efforts to label products from the West Bank, calling those efforts “another try to negatively single out Israel while promoting an economic boycott of it.”

In a statement to The Jerusalem Post, the embassy said it was “highly unfortunate that Bundestag members from the Greens, which consider themselves peace advocates, choose to focus on an issue that will find its solution in a final agreement between Israel and the PA [Palestinian Authority], instead of directing their efforts to promote what is mostly needed at this time – pressuring the Palestinians to return to direct bilateral negotiations without any preconditions (as [US] Secretary of State Kerry is doing these days).”

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The Green Party submitted a lengthy parliamentary questionnaire to the federal government in late April, seeking answers about the Merkel administration’s policies toward imports from settlements in the West Bank. In a letter dated May 13, Dr. Emily Haber – a state secretary in the German Foreign Ministry – appears to have conveyed a new and explicit position for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.

“The label ‘Made in Israel’ is, according to the opinion of the federal government, only allowed for products from within the borders of Israeli state territory before 1967,” stated the letter.

When asked for clarification about the Haber letter, the German Foreign Ministry explained to the Post that “products from Israeli settlements have for a long time been sold in the EU. The EU is working on joint guidelines for a correct labeling of the [product] origin in the framework of EU consumer protection law. We are not conducting a discussion about boycotts.”

According to the Israeli Embassy, the Jewish state’s exports to the EU are carried out “according to agreements signed between Israel and the EU, including the issue of Export from the Territories, which was settled in the Olmert-Mendelson Agreement from 2005. This agreement is being implemented fully to this date as verified also by EU reports.”

However, the Green Party and federal government positions triggered sharp criticism from experts on anti-Israel activity.

Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg, head of the Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor, decried “this simplistic and immoral support for the Palestinian narrative and the effort to punish Israel,” saying it “stands in sharp contrast with the silence of these German politicians in the face of the violent slaughter in Syria. Instead of a constructive approach to peace-building, the Greens and their allies in the government are using destructive and biased policies that will only increase conflict.”

Linking the issue to accusations of apartheid, Steinberg told the Post that “support for boycotts, in any form, promotes the 2001 Durban strategy that exploits and distorts apartheid by using it as a weapon in the war against Jewish self-determination.

Instead of joining this strategy, German officials and politicians should act to stop the cynical abuse of ‘peace’ and ‘human rights.’” Deidre Berger, the head of the Berlin-based office of the American Jewish Committee, blasted the move as well, stating that “labeling products from the West Bank under the guise of consumer protection is a sham. Such labels do nothing to protect the health and welfare of European consumers.

Instead, their main purpose is to target the Israeli economy and punish Israelis for the situation of the occupied territories.”

She said it was “worrisome that a growing consensus seems to be emerging amongst German officials and politicians across the political spectrum that the labeling of Israeli products will help re-launch the peace process. The only way to move closer to a two-state solution is for both parties to sit down at the negotiating table, without preconditions.”

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