UK: Labor calls for compulsory settlement product labeling

"Step up pressure on Israel to stop building settlements by pushing for greater Europe-wide transparency on food products exported from the West Bank."

By JONNY PAUL
December 6, 2010 06:49
2 minute read.
YVETTE COOPER, the British Labor Party’s shadow fo

Yvette Cooper 311. (photo credit: Associated Press)

LONDON – Britain’s new shadow foreign minister has called for her government to pressure the European Union to introduce labelling on West Bank products to differentiate between goods produced by Palestinians and Israeli settlers.

Yvette Cooper told The Guardian on Saturday that the government should step up pressure on Israel to stop building settlements by pushing for greater Europe-wide transparency on food products exported from the West Bank.

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“The continued building of settlements in the occupied territories is illegal and a serious obstacle to peace,” she told the paper.

“If EU member states can speak with one voice, including guidance to retailers on produce from settlements in the West Bank, it will send a strong signal on how important this is.”

The Labor politician, who recently returned from a visit to the region, said she was against a blanket boycott of Israeli goods but believed that retailers and consumers should be informed whether products are produced “by illegal settlers.”

“Consumers should be able to choose what produce they buy,” Cooper told the Guardian. “That includes knowing exactly where it came from and having access to all markets, including Gaza, whose population is still unable to export to the wider world.”

Cooper also blamed both Israel and the Palestinians for “a worrying lack of urgency in the peace process.”

Last December, while Labor was still in power, the government introduced voluntary guidelines calling for the clear labeling of goods and produce originating from the West Bank. It said the advisory was a response to consumer demand for information about the origin of produce that had been produced in the West Bank, and dismissed the accusation that the move would lead to a wider boycott of Israeli goods.

Leading the call for labeling was the radical fringe group Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which calls for a complete boycott of Israel.

“Importers, retailers, NGOs and consumers have asked the government for clarity over the precise origin of products from the occupied Palestinian territories,” Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary of State Hilary Benn said at the time. “The label ‘West Bank’ does not allow consumers to distinguish between goods originating from Palestinian producers and goods originating from illegal Israeli settlements.”

The advisory drew an angry response from Israel, which said the move would promote further radicalization of the Palestinians.

In September, there were concerns within the Jewish community when Ed Miliband, Labor’s first Jewish head, won his party’s leadership contest. An ardent socialist, most of his leadership campaign had been directed toward the left of the party, describing the direction of the party as “brutish US-style capitalism.” His narrow victory – gaining 50.65% of votes – owed much to votes from trade unions.

The Conservative party said this would mean he’ll remain in debt to them, while MPs who supported his brother David for the party leadership warned that Ed Miliband’s dependence on union votes would be a “disaster” for the party.

Many of Britain’s top unions support a boycott of Israel and severing ties with the Histadrut labor federation.

Miliband, who is an atheist, told the party conference in October that Britain must “strain every sinew” to make Israel end the blockade of Gaza, He also condemned Israel’s response to the Gaza flotilla incident in May.


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