Former Knesset speaker and head of the Jewish Agency Avraham Burg joined a group of prominent Israelis and released a public letter in The Guardian on Friday lauding the recent European Court of Justice ruling that products made in the West Bank must be labeled as such.
Previously, they were labeled as originating in the State of Israel; the West Bank, as well as the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the eastern part of Jerusalem are not universally recognized as Israeli territory.
The West Bank, including a section of Jerusalem, were acquired when the IDF defeated the Jordanian army in the 1967 Six Day War. the Gaza Strip was similarly taken after Israel defeated the Egyptian and Syrian armies in the Golan Heights.
In the letter, the signatories - including former Israeli ambassador to South Africa Ilan Baruch and 2016 Israel Prize recipient Professor David Shulman - called on the EU to “ban the import of Israeli settlement goods.”
They argued that the current situation, in which Israeli citizens reside in the West Bank under the protection of the IDF, “is morally corrosive, strategically shortsighted, and thoroughly detrimental to peace.”
Among Palestinians, many of whom reside in refugee camps erected in both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip at the end of the War of Independence in 1948 resulting in the founding of the Jewish state, it is usually hoped that those areas might serve as the Palestinian-held land on which a Palestinian state would be created.
However, some Israelis strongly believe that the West Bank is the cradle of Jewish civilization and contains sites of great importance to religious Jews, among them the city of Hebron and Mount Ebal, where some claim that the altar built by Joshua before the conquest of Canaan is located.
Others point to the strategic value of the Golan Heights, especially with Syria being in a state of civil war since 2011, as well as the West Bank, as secular reasons to holding on to these areas.
Others suggest that, with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad firing rockets at Israeli civilians and the inability of these two groups to work together, or work with the Palestinian Authority which controls part of the West Bank, Israel is unable to withdraw from these places even it desires to do so – fearing for its own safety.
Israeli law annexed the Golan Heights and the eastern part of Jerusalem; many Israelis regard the unified city as the capital of Israel.
Burg, who served as the head of the Jewish Agency, a body devoted to bringing Jewish olim (immigrants) to Israel, gained French citizenship in 2007. In 2011, he publicly stated that his views are post-Zionist and argued that, historically speaking, the Zionist movement was a scaffold needed to erect the State of Israel, but now it is time to decide if Israelis see themselves as a nation by culture, as in France, or a nation by blood, which would exclude non-Jews, Ynet reported.
Many of the best Israeli wines are produced in the Golan Heights, yet in 1992, over 2,000 vineyards were recorded as operating in the West Bank whereas 41 were recorded in the Golan Height, according to Galit Rand in her 2015 book, Not for Kiddush Only – Wine, Society and Politics in Israel.