PRETORIA – South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry is preparing a policy
change mandating that products originating from West Bank settlements not be
labeled as Israeli products.
In a statement published last week in the
governmental gazette, Trade Minister Rob Davies declared that consumers in South
Africa should not be misled into believing that products originating from the
“Occupied Palestinian Territories” originate from Israel.
specified in his note some “misleading labeled products” as “Ahava products, and
other cosmetic brands, technology and soft drinks.”
furiously to the South African announcement, which the Foreign Ministry said was
the first of its kind in the world. Spokesman Paul Hirschson said the ministry
would call in the South African ambassador to protest the move.
singling out of one side of one conflict out of all the conflicts in the world
is verging on racism,” he said, adding that “this is sad coming from South
Africa, which should know better.”
Open Shuhada Street, a Palestinian
international organization focusing on the issue of “rules of origin,” has been
campaigning in South Africa for several months against products manufactured by
Israelis in the West Bank. It has been threatening legal action whose goal would
be to require the South African government to declare the labeling of these
products as “illegal” and “consumer misleading.”
The Palestinian lobby
group specifically targets Dead Sea beauty products made in Mitzpe
In a joint statement, Palestinian lobby groups in South Africa
called the decision taken by Davies as “significant,” adding that it would
“render Israeli trade with South Africa far more difficult and is a serious
setback for Israeli companies wanting to do business in South
The Israeli Embassy in Pretoria criticized the proposal on
Saturday, saying, “We regret the decision to adopt this notice, which carries an
unpleasant scent of singling out Israel on a national and on a political
The embassy added that it was investigating the implications of
this decision vis-à-vis the relevant authorities. The bilateral trade between
the two countries surpasses $1 billion annually.
Ben Swartz, the
spokesman of the South African Zionist Federation, said the Jewish community in
South Africa was deeply concerned about the proposal. Swartz said that the
content of the notice is “highly political and politicized, and has been
prepared without proper public debate and discussion.”
He added that he
did not believe that this proposal reflected the policy of all governing parties
in South Africa, nor of the African National Congress as a whole.
Keinon contributed to this report.