MYTH; Labelling products from West Bank made in an “Israeli Settlement” will advance the cause of peace.

FACT:

On November 12, 2019, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that products coming from Jewish localities in the West Bank could not carry the label “Made in Israel” and must be labelled as a product originating from an “Israeli Settlement.”  This decision reflects an all-too-familiar double-standard applied to Israel that bolsters the antisemitic BDS movement and undermines the prospects for peace. The timing of the ruling was also galling given that Israel was under bombardment from hundreds of rockets fired from Gaza by Palestine Islamic Jihad.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry noted that “there are over 200 ongoing territorial disputes across the world, yet the ECJ has not rendered a single ruling related to the labelling of products originating from these territories.  Yesterday’s ruling is both political and discriminating against Israel.”  The statement continued, “This ruling only diminishes the chances of reaching peace and contradicts the positions of the European Union on the conflict.  It plays into the hands of the Palestinian Authority, which continues to refuse to engage in direct negotiations with Israel, and emboldens radical anti-Israel groups that call for boycotts against Israel and deny its right to exist” (“Israel strongly rejects recent ECJ ruling,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, November 12, 2019).

The United States also criticized the decision in a statement from the State Department:

The circumstances surrounding the labelling requirement in the specific facts presented to the Court are suggestive of anti-Israel bias.  This requirement serves only to encourage, facilitate, and promote boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.  The United States unequivocally opposes any effort to engage in BDS, or to otherwise economically pressure, isolate, or otherwise delegitimize Israel.  The path toward resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict is through direct negotiations. America stands with Israel against efforts to economically pressure, isolate, or delegitimize it (“Decision by EU Court of Justice on Psagot Case,” U.S. State Department, November 13, 2019).

If EU nations follow through and implement the court’s decision, they may violate U.S. anti-boycott laws and run afoul of World Trade Organization rules (Adam Kredo, “Trump Admin Will Fight European Mandate that Jewish-Made Goods Carry ‘Warning Labels,’” Washington Free Beacon, November 13, 2019).).

Alan Baker observed that “The EU labeling policy is based on a unilateral EU premise that Israel’s settlements are contrary to international law.”  By taking this position, he added, “the EU has taken sides and has prejudged one of the central negotiating issues – that of settlements – which is still an open issue on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating table” (Alan Baker, “The European Union Labels Itself Biased,” JCPA, November 13, 2019).

The policy of labelling only Israeli goods is yet another example of the one-sided position of the Europeans, who maintain that settlements are the obstacle to peace and that Israelis must be coerced to dismantle them.  The Europeans rarely behave by word or deed as though they recognize the Palestinians are a party to the conflict and their unwillingness to negotiate or to coexist with the Jewish state are the real impediments to peace.

The EU does not impose any sanctions on the Palestinians to change their behavior and continues to lavish money on the PA, even as it uses those funds to pay jailed terrorists and families of martyrs (“EU pledges €42.5 million in aid to Palestinians,” DW, January 31, 2018). Individual governments also support antisemitic organizations promoting the boycott of Israel (“European Union,” NGO Monitor, May 27, 2019) .  Hypocritically, while criticizing Israeli settlements, the EU has funded illegal Palestinian construction in the West Bank (Herb Keinon and Tovah Lazaroff, “Report: EU building hundreds of illegal structures for Palestinians in Area C of West Bank,” Jerusalem Post, February 5, 2015).

The Europeans frequently express frustration at being excluded from the peace process, however, by repeatedly siding with the extreme positions of the Palestinians they have made themselves irrelevant.


[1] In 1959, for example, Israel complained that two countries (Liberia was one) moved their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in response to US pressure. In 2002, Congress passed a law that said that American citizens who wished to do so could have “Israel” listed as their birthplace on US passports. The State Department, however, refused to do so. The parents of Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky, an American citizen born in Jerusalem, sued the State Department to force the government to enforce the law. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which held that the president has an exclusive power of recognition, and, therefore, Congress may not require the State Department to indicate in passports that Jerusalem is part of Israel. “Dismayed: U.S. Court Refuses to Enforce U.S. Law Granting Jerusalem-Born U.S. Citizens Right to Have ‘Israel’ Listed on Official Documents,” Zionist Organization of America (July 15, 2009); instruction from the Department of State to all diplomatic posts, February 20, 1959, in FRUS, 1958–60, vol. 13, 147; memorandum of conversation, March 9, 1959, in FRUS, 1958–60, vol. 13, 151–52; “Supreme Court Strikes Down ‘Born in Jerusalem’ Passport Law,” Associated Press (June 8, 2015).

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Myths & Facts are published at The Jewish Virtual Library.

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