J'lem against EU intention to label settlement goods

Meeting follows European memo discussing visa ban for "violent settlers"; J'lem singles out British, Irish, Danish and EU foreign services for promoting the conference along with various NGOs.

Activists march through  Modi'in Illit supermarket 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Activists march through Modi'in Illit supermarket 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
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.
That 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 goods.
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 merchandise.
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.”
The 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 information.
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 messaging.”
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.”