On Friday, June 10th, Norway announced that “foodstuffs originating in areas occupied by Israel must be marked with the area from which the product comes, and that it comes from an Israeli settlement if that is the case.”
In building its case for this new ruling, the government referred to a European Union ruling from 2019. However, this is a measure that the government-leading Labor party “Arbeiderpartiet” and the Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt have advocated for years. Already in 2017, a proposal for such discriminatory labeling was voted down after a 64-37 vote in Norway’s Parliament. In 2020, they tried again, but the proposal failed to pass once more. Labor’s coalition partner, the Center Party “Senterpartiet,” has voted against the labeling both times but now has given in to pressure to accept the measure.
The labeling of goods from Judea and Samaria is reprehensible, primarily because of its double standard, as Norway has never adopted a similar ruling for any other disputed areas around the world.
In fact, Norway has allowed the state-owned Telenor company to offer services to settlers in the Nagorno-Karabakh region which is claimed by both Azerbaijan and Armenia. Norway also allows Turkish Airlines, which transports settlers in and out of Northern Cyprus daily, to operate out of Norwegian airports. Norway does not discourage economic relations with the large Swedish company Trelleborg, which has supplied equipment for water supplies to Northern Cyprus. Norway is not asking its industry companies to stop cooperation with the German industrial giant Siemens, which supplies wind energy to Western Sahara.
What about all the other 150 land and sea areas that are disputed, not only in Africa and Asia, but also in Europe? Should Norway start labeling these goods as well? Should Norwegian governments begin to discourage economic relations with all disputed areas that we believe are doing something wrong?
The EU regulation is not a decision that Norway, a non-EU member, is obliged to follow, and a number of EU countries have chosen not to take the decision into account. It is strange that the Center Party, which is so opposed to EU policy in Norway, has agreed to introduce one of the most grotesque EU decisions from recent years.
Norway’s Foreign Ministry claims that “Norway considers the Israeli settlements in the occupied territories to be contrary to international law.” If international law is applied fairly, there is no basis for saying that the settlements are illegal. Facts show that the Israeli settlements are not the biggest obstacle to peace either, as the Israeli residential and agricultural areas in Judea and Samaria cover only 2.7 percent of the area.
“The settlements are not the whole and not the main cause of the conflict – of course, they are not. Nor can you say that if they were moved, you would have peace without a more comprehensive agreement – you would not…” said John Kerry, President Barack Obama’s Secretary of State, in 2016. If Norwegian and other European leaders had echoed this sentiment, they would have contributed to peace. Now, with this double standard labeling, they are just fueling the conflict further.
The Palestinian leadership, according to the still-valid 1995 Interim Agreement (also known as Oslo 2), agreed to Israel’s continued presence in Judea and Samaria pending final status negotiations, without any restrictions on either party in planning, zoning, or building homes and communities, showing that the allegations that Israel’s presence in the area is illegal have no legal basis.
So, let’s put the right label on Norway’s new policy: This is a double standard directed only at Jews living in places the government in Oslo does not like to see them live and thrive.
Conrad Myrland is the CEO of Med Israel for fred (MIFF, With Israel for peace), a pro-Israel group in Norway. MIFF is also active in Sweden, Denmark and Iceland.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Jackie Goodall.