In BDS victory, top European Court rules settlement products must be labeled

Israel holds that such labeling helps the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement boycott such products.

PSAGOT, PEAK 2016 / CASTEL, PETIT CASTEL 2017 / TABOR, MALKIYA 2015 (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israeli goods produced over the pre-1967 line must be marked as settlement products, the European Union’s top court said Tuesday in a landmark ruling that mandates such labeling in all 28 EU member states for the first time.
The ruling will codify into law labeling of settler products, which had previously been only an advisory by the EU and was left to the individual purview of its member states.
“Foodstuffs originating in territories occupied by the State of Israel must bear the indication of their territory of origin, accompanied – where those foodstuffs come from a locality or a group of localities constituting an Israeli settlement within that territory – by the indication of that provenance,” the Court of Justice of the European Union said.
It clarified that the word “settlement” would now have to be included on consumer labels for Israeli goods produced in east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, as well as the West Bank settlements.
Antoine Briand, a press officer for the court, explained to The Jerusalem Post that the ruling is binding and that action can be taken against countries that do not comply with the ruling.
“The decision that was handed down today is binding on every member state of the European Union. It is up to the EU or any institution, such as the commission, to introduce proceedings if a member state does not abide by this rule,” Briand said.
Israel opposed such labeling, warning that it abets the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and can be used as a tool to boycott Israel.
The judicial decision strengthens the legal argument in Europe against settlements, particularly the stance that settlements exemplify “population transfer,” something that is illegal under international humanitarian law.
Top PLO official Saeb Erekat and Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Malki welcomed the ruling, but said it did not go far enough.
“Our demand is not only for the correct labeling reflecting the certificate of origin of products coming from illegal colonial settlements, but for the banning of those products from international markets,” Erekat said.
Both politicians called on the United Nations Human Rights Council, in the wake of the ruling, to publish its database of Israeli and international businesses operating over the pre-1967 lines, which in Israel is known as “the blacklist.”
Former justice minister and Yamina Party head Ayelet Shaked said the ruling had a “stench of antisemitism,” explaining that there is no similar mandate with regard to any other territorial conflict, such as Tibet, Cyprus and Western Sahara.
Shaked noted that the ruling came out just as Israel was under continuous rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled Gaza, a territory it had controlled militarily and from which it withdrew in 2005, destroying all 21 settlements that had existed there.
“While one million Israelis are under missile attack, the EU has once again demonstrated its hypocrisy,” Shaked said.
The Foreign Ministry charged that the European court’s decision was political in nature, strengthens the PA’s resolve not to directly negotiate with Israel and strengthens those who “promote anti-Israel boycotts and deny Israel’s right to exist.”
Foreign Minister Israel Katz said it was a morally bankrupt decision, and promised to work with his European counterparts to ensure that it was not implemented.
Prior to the decision’s publication, a number of US politicians had written to the European court, warning that a ruling in support of product labeling could harm US-EU trade ties.
Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey wrote there would be “serious and far-reaching implications and unintended consequences.”
The Yesha Council – the umbrella organization representing communities in Judea and Samaria – said the decision was not worth the paper it was written on. It warned that it could harm Arab workers who make their living working in businesses in the settlements.
“Tens of thousands of Palestinians who enjoy steady employment and wages in the various factories in Judea and Samaria will be the first casualties of this decision,” said Yesha Council’s Chief Foreign Envoy and local council head Efrat Oded Revivi.
Gush Etzion Regional Council head Shlomo Ne’eman likened the ruling to the Holocaust.
It was unclear to him, Ne’eman said, if the EU was detached from reality or “trying to produce a reality where Jews in Europe were once again marked with yellow badges as they were 80 years ago.”
The left-wing NGO Peace Now responded, arguing that such comments cheapen the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust.
“The State of Israel itself does not consider the settlements as within its sovereign borders. It is absurd to expect the EU to play along with the far-Right’s idea that the facts are otherwise when Israel itself does not,” Peace Now said.
“To label products made in the settlements in the West Bank as ‘Made in Israel’ is to blur the line between Israel and the West Bank, and to play into the hands of the BDS movement, which portrays any support of Israel as support for the occupation,” the group added.
The European Union in turn pushed back against those who charged that the consumer labeling was a de facto form of boycott and defended its strong ties with the Jewish state.
“The EU does not support any form of boycott or sanctions against Israel. The EU rejects attempts by the campaigns of the so-called ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ (BDS) movement to isolate Israel,” the EU explained.
It is a position the EU has consistently taken, particularly since 2015, when it issued guidelines for the consumer labeling of Israeli products produced over the pre-1967 lines. Those guidelines were mild in comparison to the court ruling. They only stipulated that products could not be marked “made in Israel,” but should instead say “made in East Jerusalem” or “made in the Golan.”
Such “clear and non-misleading indication of origin is an essential part of the EU’s consumer policy,” it said.
“The Court ruling does not concern products from Israel itself. Israel has a privileged trading relationship with the EU based on the EU-Israel Association Agreement, establishing that products originating in Israel within its internationally recognized borders benefit from preferential tariff treatment upon their entry into the EU. This situation will remain unchanged,” the EU said.