S. Africa: W. Bank products won't be labeled Israeli

Foreign Ministry to summon South African ambassador over move which it says "is verging on racism.”

Ahava (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
PRETORIA – South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry is preparing a policy change mandating that products originating from West Bank settlements not be labeled as Israeli products.
In a statement published last week in the governmental gazette, Trade Minister Rob Davies declared that consumers in South Africa should not be misled into believing that products originating from the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” originate from Israel.
The minister specified in his note some “misleading labeled products” as “Ahava products, and other cosmetic brands, technology and soft drinks.”
Israel reacted furiously to the South African announcement, which the Foreign Ministry said was the first of its kind in the world. Spokesman Paul Hirschson said the ministry would call in the South African ambassador to protest the move.
“The singling out of one side of one conflict out of all the conflicts in the world is verging on racism,” he said, adding that “this is sad coming from South Africa, which should know better.”
Open Shuhada Street, a Palestinian international organization focusing on the issue of “rules of origin,” has been campaigning in South Africa for several months against products manufactured by Israelis in the West Bank. It has been threatening legal action whose goal would be to require the South African government to declare the labeling of these products as “illegal” and “consumer misleading.”
The Palestinian lobby group specifically targets Dead Sea beauty products made in Mitzpe Shalem.
In a joint statement, Palestinian lobby groups in South Africa called the decision taken by Davies as “significant,” adding that it would “render Israeli trade with South Africa far more difficult and is a serious setback for Israeli companies wanting to do business in South Africa.”
The Israeli Embassy in Pretoria criticized the proposal on Saturday, saying, “We regret the decision to adopt this notice, which carries an unpleasant scent of singling out Israel on a national and on a political basis.”
The embassy added that it was investigating the implications of this decision vis-à-vis the relevant authorities. The bilateral trade between the two countries surpasses $1 billion annually.
Ben Swartz, the spokesman of the South African Zionist Federation, said the Jewish community in South Africa was deeply concerned about the proposal. Swartz said that the content of the notice is “highly political and politicized, and has been prepared without proper public debate and discussion.”
He added that he did not believe that this proposal reflected the policy of all governing parties in South Africa, nor of the African National Congress as a whole.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.