European NGOs: Ban settlement products

A group of 22 European NGOs publishes report recommending that European governments ban West Bank settlement products.

By
October 30, 2012 03:58
3 minute read.
Aerial view of Ariel settlement in West Bank

Aerial view of Ariel settlement in West Bank 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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A group of 22 European NGOs has recommended that its governments ban West Bank settlement products, in a report that it published on Tuesday morning.

It also called on the European Union and member states to pass legislation to more clearly label imports to its continent from West Bank settlements.

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The report which was publicized by the London based Crisis Action group highlighted World Bank data, provided by Israel, to argue that settlements goods remain part of Europe’s trade with Israel.

“The value of goods produced in West Bank settlements and exported to Europe is US$300 million per year,” the World Bank said in a September report.

The NGO report, said that this was 15 times greater than Europe’s volume of trade with Palestinian products.

A former British Member of Parliament Phyllis Starkey told The Jerusalem Post, that the report was released now because, “the issue of settlements has gone up the political agenda at the European Union.”

She pointed to the strong statement issued by the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council in May, which affirmed a commitment to use existing EU legislation against settlement products.

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The EU is moving from its long-standing rhetoric to action, Starkey said.

The NGO report, “Trading Away Peace: How Europe Helps Sustain Illegal Israeli settlements” was addressed to European governments and the EU to help support what appears to be a policy shift, she said.

A number of European governments are discussing how to label settlement products for consumers, she said, but did not name the countries weighing those measures.

Starkey noted that the report was also published in advance of Ireland’s six-month term as President of the EU, from January to June of 2013.

Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore has already said that the EU should consider banning settlement products.

According to NGO report, European states, should, “Ensure correct consumer labeling of all settlement products as a minimum measure, as done by the UK and Denmark but also covering manufactured products.”

Israel already labels its products with the address of its origin within the country. It does so, because settlement products are not part of Israel’s taxfree agreement with the European Union, and as such are charged a tariff fee.

But the report said that this kind of labeling placed too much of a burden on European customs to determine if that location was in the West Bank.

European governments must insist that Israeli exporters stop labeling West Bank settlement exports as products of their country.

“Consumers are unwittingly contributing to the injustice by buying products that are inaccurately labeled as coming from Israel, when in fact they are from West Bank settlements,” said William Bell, Policy and Advocacy Officer at Christian Aid UK and Ireland.

Businesses should be discouraged from buying settlement goods, the report said.

“As a more comprehensive option,” the report also called on European governments “to ban the imports of settlements products.”

The report noted that it did not support a boycott of Israeli products, simply those produced over the pre-1967 line.

“Europe says settlements are illegal under international law and yet, continues to trade with them,” said Bell.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry attacked the report as biased, inaccurate and confusing.

“The whole thing is totally misleading and based on partial information,” said Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

He added that the NGOs cherry picked information “to serve a political agenda.”

The report, he said, provides recommendations for actions that are “self-contradictory and reflect nothing but general anti-Israel bias,” he said.

If the concern is the origin of products from conflict zones where there is a controversy, why focus only on Israel, Palmor said.

“Why not propose a general directive to label any product emanating from a controversial area of conflict,” he said.

Among the groups named on the report itself were: Diakonia (Sweden), Trocaire (Ireland), Quaker Council for European Affairs, Cordaid (Netherlands) and Caabu (UK).

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