Britain has acted to increase pressure on Israel over its West Bank settlements by advising UK supermarkets on how to distinguish between foods from the settlements and Palestinian-manufactured goods.
The government’s move falls short of a legal requirement but is bound to increase the prospects of a consumer boycott of products from those territories. Israeli officials and settler leaders were tonight highly critical of the decision.
Until now, food has been simply labelled “Produce of the West Bank”, but the new, voluntary guidance issued by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), says labels could give more precise information, like “Israeli settlement produce” or “Palestinian produce”.
There see, you can boycott Israel and help the Palestinians.
The distinction doesn’t have the force of law just yet but see this:
Separately, Defra said that traders would be committing an offence if they did declare produce from the occupied territories as “Produce of Israel”.
And here’s some comment:
The TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, welcomed the public clarification that marking produce from illegal settlements on occupied territory as “produce of Israel” was illegal, but said the government should have gone further.
Barbara Stocking, Oxfam’s chief executive, said: “Profiting from the goods produced in the illegal settlements is contrary to international law and they should be banned from sale in the European Union, as they are in Palestine. Trade in such goods undermines the viability of a sovereign Palestinian state and holds back the peace process.
“We support the right of consumers to know the origin of the products they purchase. Trade with Israeli settlements – which are illegal under international law – contributes to their economic viability and serves to legitimise them. It is also clear from our development work in West Bank communities that settlements have led to the denial of rights and create poverty for many Palestinians.”…..
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign said it welcomed the new guidance but urged Defra to go further: “The government must seek prosecutions of companies which smuggle settlement goods in under false labels.
“We have received many calls from people who were distressed when they bought goods labelled ‘Produce of the West Bank’ because they thought they were aiding the Palestinian economy, then realised they were economically aiding Israel’s illegal occupation.
“Particularly following Israel’s massacre in Gaza, consumers have been shocked at Israel’s war crimes and want to take action. They do not want to feel complicit in Israel’s occupation by buying stolen goods.”…………
Toby Quantrill, head of public policy for the Fairtrade Foundation, said farmers in Palestine faced barriers to trade which jeopardised opportunities to trade internationally on equal terms with people making similar products.
And for the zios?
Dani Dayan, the Argentinian-born leader of the Yesha Council, which represents Israeli settlers, said the decision was the “latest hostile step” from Britain. “Products from our communities in Judea and Samaria should be treated as any other Israeli product,” he said, using an Israeli term for the West Bank.
Israeli officials said they feared this was a slide towards a broader boycott of Israeli goods. Yigal Palmor, Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman, said his country’s produce was being unfairly singled out.
“It looks like it is catering to the demands of those whose ultimate goal is the boycott of Israeli products,” he said. “The message here will very likely be used by pro-boycott campaigners. It is a matter of concern.”
And then a little sop from the Guardian to the Obama fan club:
Israel came under intense US pressure early this year to halt construction in settlements, but has only adopted a temporary, partial freeze. Palestinian leaders say they will not restart peace negotiations until there is a full settlement freeze in line with the US road map of 2003.
Intense pressure? What intense pressure?
I’ve just re-read the whole article and there’s no comment from the Board of Deputies of British Jews but then this is a political issue and, as we’ve seen, the “board was never intended to be a political organization”.