France suspends alleged discriminatory product labeling against Israel

The France office of Amnesty International complained about the suspension of the labeling policy.

By
October 17, 2018 17:13
2 minute read.
Settlement Regulation Law to save homes like in Modiin Illit in the West Bank, 2017

Settlement Regulation Law to save homes like in Modiin Illit in the West Bank, 2017. (photo credit: AMIR COHEN/REUTERS)

 
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Berlin - French authorities suspended in early October their insistence on special labeling for West Bank products following a lawsuit alleging that the practice is discriminatory. The Lawfare Project filed in 2017 the legal challenge against the allegedly anti-Israel product labeling policy.

Brooke Goldstein, executive director of the Lawfare Project, said on Monday: "We are glad the French government will not be applying its discriminatory and unlawful policies, pending the outcome of the case. However, we should not have reached this point in the first place, where an Israeli company must rely on European courts to enforce basic economic rights. The entire issue could easily have been rendered moot had the French government announced that the policy-- which clearly contradicts EU and French trade laws would be suspended indefinitely."

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According to a Monday statement from the Lawfare Project, "French authorities announced the suspension of a discriminatory and politicized labeling requirement imposed on Israeli products, pending a decision by the European Court of Justice. The requirement mandated that products from the West Bank and Golan Heights be labeled with the designation 'colonies israéliennes' ('Israeli colonies', referring to the settlements)."

The Lawfare Project's initial suit was "brought before Council of State, France's highest court, on behalf of Psâgot Winery LTD, an Israeli vineyard whose European distributors are subject to the labeling rules. Psâgot is being represented by revered law firm Cabinet Briard," said the Lawfare Project's statement.

In May 2018, the top French court "referred two questions--narrow but central to the landmark case--to the European Court of Justice for its opinion, expected to be issued in Fall 2019," said the Lawfare Project.

In 2015, the European Commission adopted binding regulations requiring such labeling. However, the commission has no recourse against countries that do not apply the regulations and no lawsuit has been brought to date against a vendor who declined to apply them.

The European Commission policy enabled member states to penalize Israeli products from the disputed territories in the West Bank, Golan Heights and east Jerusalem, according to Israel's government. Greece and Hungary rejected the anti-Israel labeling measure.

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The France office of Amnesty International complained about the suspension of the labeling policy.

"Instead of complying with the request to end imports [from the West Bank], the government has chosen to roll back and suspend the demand for labeling," the human rights group wrote. The Israel Broadcasting Corp., or KAN, reported independently about the suspension of the measure, which was adopted in 2016.

That year, the French Economy Ministry's General Directorate for Competition, Consumption and Fraud Prevention published an advisory circular requiring retailers to use the word "colonies," French for "settlements," to specify goods originating in Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967.

Israel considers the Golan and all of Jerusalem an integral part of its territory, as well as the West Bank's disputed land, where most Jewish settlements are legal municipal entities. But much of the world, including the European Union and its member states, views the land as occupied and the settlements as illegal.

France's major supermarket chains apply no special labeling for settlement goods. Israel has vocally protested the passing of these regulations.

JTA contributed to this report.

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