Foodstuffs from occupied West Bank no longer ‘Made in Israel’

Foodstuffs produced in Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank should from now on carry a label clearly indicating their geographical provenance. That is the official judgment issued today by the European Court of Justice. The judgment is valid in all member states of the European Union.

Currently, all products of Israeli make and exported to Europe, carry the label of “made in Israel”. That includes those produced or manufactured in settlements in the occupied West Bank. However, that particular indication will no longer suffice. Foodstuffs produced in Israeli settlements will now be indicated as “Made in the West Bank (Israeli settlement)” or “Made in the West Bank (Palestinian product)”.

“Foodstuffs originating in the territories occupied by #Israel must bear the indication of their territory of origin, accompanied, where those foodstuffs come from an Israeli settlement within that territory, by the indication of that provenance.” – EU Court of Justice on Twitter.

The Court clarified that consumers have to be able to make “well informed decisions” when buying their groceries, also in relation to ethical matters and with respect for international law. If the label doesn’t clearly mention the product’s provenance, the consumer could be misguided.

Since the settlements on the West Bank are illegal under international law and not considered to be under Isreali sovereignty, the European Commission already recommended back in 2015 that settlement products be given a separate label.

Condemnation and concurrence

France followed that recommendation in 2016. As a result, the Israeli wine producer Yaakov Berg went to court. His vineyard is located in the settlement ‘Psagot’ and he fears for his export to Europe. “The idea behind the labels is a boycot with the intention of stopping people from buying our wine. It’s antisemitic.”

The Israeli government, predictably, is also not a big fan of the new label. According to Israel, the European policy is unfair and discriminatory, since other nations with occupied territories, such as the Turkish occupation of Cyprus and Syria and the Russian territory in the Crimean peninsula, are not being treated in the same way.

Professor Eugene Kontorovich, the director of international law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, stated that “The European Court is approving putting a new kind of yellow star on Jewish-made products.” He further added that “This blatant discrimination makes it more urgent than ever for the Trump administration to defy Brussels by making official what has long been US practice, to allow these products to be labelled ‘Made in Israel’.”

Opponents of the Israeli settlements are content with the Court’s decision. Human Rights Watch calls it “an important step”. According to them, consumers have to be able to know if the foodstuffs they buy are a product of “severe breaches of international humanitarian law”. The EU itself perceives the Israeli settlements as a big obstacle on the way to a resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians.

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