EU hypocrisy

Maybe Israel has reacted strongly to the labeling decision. But maybe there is a good reason.

European Union flags (photo credit: REUTERS)
European Union flags
(photo credit: REUTERS)
In explaining the European Union’s decision to recommend labeling products made in factories located beyond the pre-1967 lines, EU officials, speaking on and off record, have said they were “just following orders.”
Lars Faaborg-Anderson, the EU’s ambassador to Israel, explained at a press conference in Jerusalem, that “This is a small technical addition to something that has existed for a very long time... between products coming from Israel proper, within its 1967 lines, and products coming from beyond the Green Line.
“The label for these products cannot state that it is ‘made in Israel’ because the EU does not recognize that the areas over the pre-1967 lines – such as east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights – are part of Israel. But I want to emphasize strongly that this is not a boycott.”
In other words, it’s against European rules to refer to products as “made in Israel” when in reality they were made in areas that fell into Israel’s hands after the Six Day War, thanks to Israel’s miraculous victory against the combined armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria.
Since Europeans are such sticklers for the letter of the law, they have no choice but to follow EU rules and begin implementing official guidelines adopted back in 2012.
But don’t worry, Faaborg-Anderson was quick to add, reassuring all those emotional, paranoid Jews who are convinced the world is out to get them. This has nothing whatsoever to do with singling out Israel for special treatment; it has nothing to do with nasty boycotts and discrimination against Israel.
It is difficult to tell whether EU officials like Faaborg-Anderson are being facetious or are so out of touch with reality that they really believe what they are saying. Whatever he or other EU officials think, the EU move is hypocritical and strengthens the hand of activists opposed to the very existence of Israel within any borders.
Though EU officials would like us to believe otherwise, they are fastidious about adhering to the rules only when it is about Israel. Already in 2003 the EU placed codes on products made over the pre-1967 lines so that customs officials would know not to include them in the EU’s Free Trade Agreement with Israel. God forbid, the Europeans did not want to give preferred trading conditions to Israeli industries located in areas beyond the pre-1967 lines.
The Europeans tend to be particularly strict when it comes to the territorial dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, but inexplicably lax in their adherence to international conventions when it comes to other disputes.
Take, for example, Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony. In 1979, the UN General Assembly endorsed the view held by activists for self-rule in Western Sahara that the territorial is illegally occupied by Morocco and affirmed the “inalienable right of the people of Western Sahara” to independence. In 2005, the EU called for a resolution to the conflict that would ensure the “self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.”
The Netherlands and Sweden have submitted formal objections to the EU for its policy of allowing Morocco to continue to label products made in Western Sahara as Moroccan. Yet, the EU has issued no labeling guidelines comparable to those it released this week against Israel.
What happened to Europeans’ strict adherence to the letter of international law? The Europeans are similarly lenient regarding goods produced in Chinese-ruled Tibet, Indian-controlled Kashmir and Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus. No special labels are required to prevent European consumers from being misled into thinking they are buying Chinese, Indian, or Turkish products.
Unless they live in an alternative universe, Faaborg-Anderson and other EU officials must be aware that by insisting on singling out Israel for special treatment, the Europeans are feeding into the Israel bashing that is so prevalent throughout most of Europe.
Europeans like Faaborg-Anderson might think Israelis are over-reacting to the EU labeling decision. But based on their track record, Israelis are rightly concerned about the caustic environment in which Israeli policies are discussed in Europe.
Maybe Israel has reacted strongly to the labeling decision. But maybe there is a good reason. People like Faaborg-Anderson should at the very least consider this before attempting to play down the damage caused by their hypocritical actions.