- Published on Thursday, 23 August 2012 10:25
Israel hit back at South Africa for its decision on Wednesday to mandate special labels for products made in settlements, with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon saying that the decision proved the South Africa was still an "apartheid state".
"The changes that took place in South Africa over the years did not yield a truly fundamental change. South Africa remains an apartheid state," Ayalon said in a statement made on Wednesday night, Israeli media reports.
Ayalon also condemned the South African government for the killing of 34 striking miners by police, the largest number of casualties since the end of apartheid, saying, "At the moment South Africa's apartheid is aimed at Israel, and against miners within South AFrica itself.
"Instead of deciding to label Israeli products, Soth Africa should have acted courageously towards the 34 innocent miners that were just asking for an improvement in working conditions."
The proposal, which means that goods coming from settlements will not be allowed to be labelled as 'Made in Israel', has been in consideration since May and was approved by the South African government on Wednesday.
In a statement, Israel's Foreign Ministry said, "Such exclusion and discrimination bring to mind ideas of racist nature which the government of South Africa, more than any other, should have wholly rejected."
The decision, the statement said, was "without precedent, as no such measure has ever been adopted in South Africa or in any other country. It therefore constitutes blatant discrimination based on national and political distinction.
"Israel and South Africa have political differences, and that is legitimate. What is totally unacceptable is the use of tools which, by essence, discriminate and single out, fostering a general boycott."
South Africa's ambassador will be summoned to a meeting to clarify the decision, the Foreign Ministry added.
A statement released by the South African cabinet stated that the proposal "requiring the labeling of goods or products emanating from IOTs (Israel Occupied Territories)" was intended "to prevent consumers being led to believe that such goods come from Israel."
"This is in line with South Africa's stance that recognizes the 1948 borders delineated by the United Nations and does not recognize occupied territories beyond these borders as being part of the State of Israel," the statement continued.
It is not clear whether the South African statement is referring to the 1947 UN Partition Plan or the 1949 Armistice Lines. At the same cabinet meeting, the South African government also referred to the "importance" of South African participation in the upcoming Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Tehran. Israel and the US had called upon UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon not to attend the same meeting, but he has now confirmed that he will attend.
South Africa's Jewish community expressed its unhappiness what it called "discriminatory [and] divisive" measure, in a statement released by Avrom Krengel, the chairman of the South African Zionist Federation, and South African Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein.
Israel's rebuke South Africa follows the Israeli Foreign Ministry's statement last week that South African Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim's discouragement of South Africans from going to Israel was tantamount to a boycott by South Africa.
The EU has required Israeli exporters to specify where their products are made since 2003, so that products from settlements would not enjoy the same duty-free status as those on the other side of the Green Line. South Africa's measure is the first to mandate labelling products as "settlement", although Denmark and Ireland have spoke of passing similar proposals, the Jerusalem Post reports.