MK Michael Oren with Made in Europe sticker.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
For three years now the European Union has been threatening to publicize guidelines on the consumer labeling of Israeli products produced over the pre-1967 lines in parts of Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the Golan Heights.
This week sources in Jerusalem said they had received signals the Europeans would soon make good on this threat – possibly within days.
The Europeans for their part have in the past attempted to play down the issue, claiming that labeling does not constitute a boycott. As EU spokesman in Israel David Kriss told Bloomberg in June, “The main principle here is simply that consumers in Europe should not be misled about the origin of products.”
Kriss and other European officials would like us to believe that labeling is just a way of providing European consumers with information and has nothing whatsoever to do with nasty boycotts.
Such attempts to dissemble are hardly convincing. After all, what precisely will be written on the labels? “Made by Israeli settlers in Occupied Palestinian Territory”? Even the more innocuous “Produce of the West Bank (Israeli settlement produce)” that already appears on products in some British supermarkets is enough to deter European consumers already prejudiced by slanted news media.
Damage has already been done to Israeli businesses, particularly agricultural industries such as food and flower growers in the Jordan Valley, after countries like the UK, Belgium and Denmark implemented voluntary guidelines on labeling. In a June interview with Bloomberg, David Elhayani estimated that Israeli farmers have lost as much as NIS 150 million in annual exports to Europe as a result of labeling.
Another disingenuous claim being put forward by the Europeans is that labeling will be “an interpretive note that is not legally binding.” European vendors, in other words, will be allowed to choose whether or not to attach the labels. But once the European Commission makes a recommendation to label, most countries will see it as morally binding, as though it were moral to force Israel to capitulate to Palestinians’ demands without demanding anything of the Palestinians, such as to stop the incessant incitement against Israel.
Most European countries are in favor of labeling. In April the foreign ministers of France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Belgium Sweden, Malta, Austria, Ireland, Portugal, Slovenia, Hungary, Finland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Luxembourg signed a letter supporting the measure.
Germany was the only one of the five big European states not to sign.
The timing of the renewed European push to publish the guidelines on the consumer labeling of Israeli products produced beyond the Green Line is no coincidence. The news comes just a week before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is slated to travel to Washington to meet with US President Barack Obama.
The EU has in the past backed away from publishing the guidelines, under pressure from the US. This happened during the nine-month negotiating period brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry that ended without any results in April 2014.
However, this time around Obama is likely to be less predisposed to confronting the EU over the issue. The US president might even use the threat of the publication as a stick to force Netanyahu back into pointless negations with the Palestinians.
If he does, he will be repeating the mistakes that all supporters of boycotts, divestments and sanctions make.
Singling out Israel for special condemnation is not only wrong, it is immoral for a number of reasons. It imposes the entire blame for the failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Israel.
Those who support a boycott against Israel refuse to acknowledge the historical realities of the ongoing conflict, they also ignore contemporary realities.
The present wave of violence directed against innocent Israeli citizens is yet another reminder of the depth of Palestinian intransigence and violence that has broad support within Palestinian society.
An EU decision to label Israeli products now, as the Palestinian political leadership turns to incitement and the glorification of terrorists, is not only wrong and immoral, it is dangerous. It rewards Palestinian violence while vilifying Israel, thus setting the stage for yet more violence.