Israel’s French allies challenge labeling W. Bank products as ‘colony’

The French and ECJ legal proceedings are now taking place in parallel with Israel’s allies hoping to head-off the labeling issue on at least one of the two legal battlefields.

October 15, 2019 01:09
3 minute read.
Israel’s French allies challenge labeling W. Bank products as ‘colony’

French President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shake hands as they attend a joint press conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, June 5, 2018. . (photo credit: PHILIPPE WOJAZER / REUTERS)

A French ally of Israel has filed a legal challenge to an attempt in France to label Israeli products from the West Bank as coming from an “Israeli colony,” The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Filed last week, but being reported in English now for the first time, the Paris-based Association for Ethical Consumption sent its complaint to the French Ministry for the Economy and Finance relating to a broader case pending before the European of Court of Justice about EU labeling requirements.

The French and ECJ legal proceedings are now taking place in parallel with Israel’s allies hoping to head-off the labeling issue on at least one of the two legal battlefields.

While past strategies have only attacked the idea of labeling products from the West Bank as being from an Israeli colony as illegal, the new strategy continues those attacks, but adds a new line of argument.

Now, the Association is arguing that if France and the ECJ ratify the labeling of Israeli West bank products as being from a colony, then the ECJ will need to apply this rule to all disputed land areas across the globe.

Using this strategy, the Association hopes to not only attack the fairness of the labeling West Bank products as improper anti-Israel discrimination, but also to show that allowing such labeling to go through will become a nightmare for France, the EU and the ECJ in managing a myriad of other labeling worldwide.

A statement issued regarding the filing said that, “non-autonomous or non-decolonized territory, according to the UN, include” areas relating to “the United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Morocco and France,” among others.

According to the Association, if Israel is to be labeled then, “the ethically dubious status of products originating from disputed territories controlled by these countries should be readily available to consumers. For example, shrimp from New Caledonia distributed on the French market should be labeled ‘New Caledonia-French Colony’.”

Further, the statement said that, “This standard should also apply to all occupied, colonized or contested territories and countries that do not respect international law and human rights. For example, all food products from the Crimea should include labels indicating ‘Russian occupation’ or ‘Russian colony.’ Likewise, cocoa from Côte d’Ivoire should be marked ‘Cote d’Ivoire, abuse of child labor’.”

In June, the ECJ Advocate General issued a landmark opinion that… would require products made in Israeli territories to be labeled as coming from an ‘Israeli colony.’” If the ECJ adopts it and the French government does not reverse itself on labeling.

The Association for Ethical Consumption was created to ensure better information for French consumers.

The Ministry for the Economy and Finance has yet to respond to the Association’s complaint.

French lawyer Eli Weiss of the Association told the Post that the complaint, “formally requested labels on products originating in disputed areas, including territories illegally occupied by China, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and even France,” should Israel be labeled.

“If the Ministry believes it is a moral imperative to protect consumers from unintentionally contributing to illegal occupations and human rights violations around the world, it should enforce labeling requirements in all of these cases,” wrote Weiss.

Lawfare Project executive director Brooke Goldstein said, “We warned that the French government was opening up a Pandora’s Box of unintended consequences for international trade by requiring Jewish-owned businesses in Israel to label their products.”

“Now, French consumers are requesting similar labeling requirements for products made in Crimea, China and even Puerto Rico. According to French law, the labeling must be applied in a non-discriminatory fashion,” she added.

The separate ECJ case was brought by Psâgot Winery Ltd., an Israeli wine producer and exporter, together with The Lawfare Project, which describes itself as “a US-based think tank and litigation fund that files cases against antisemitic discrimination around the world.”

Psâgot and The Lawfare Project, represented by French Supreme Court law firm Cabinet Briard, challenged an opinion published by the French Minister of Economics and Finance in November 2016.

The minister’s opinion stated that products from the Golan Heights or West Bank have to be labeled as coming from Israeli settlements (“colonies Israéliennes”) or equivalent terms.

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