My headline is only very slightly exaggerated, and even if the EU did not plan to announce their settlements-labelling guidelines precisely today, it is hard to ignore the eerie timing.
There is even more curious timing involved, as Honest Reporting explains:
Haaretz explains the curious timing:
The labeling guidelines had been due to be released a month ago, but the wave of terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel caused their publication to be delayed. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini had not wanted to release the information while Israelis were being murdered in the streets by Palestinians, senior Israeli officials noted.
On the other hand, the Israeli officials said Mogherini is under heavy pressure from several European countries, such as France and Sweden, to issue the guidelines on settlement product labeling and not delay their publication further. The monthly meeting of EU foreign ministers is to be held on November 16, and apparently Mogherini is interested in releasing the guidelines before that.
Not to mention other timing issues:
I’m sure the Europeans weren’t planning to pile on more pressure onto Netanyahu. Absolutely. Riiight.
Israel took issue with the publication of the guidelines at time when the Palestinian leadership refuses to hold direct talks with Israel and during a period in which, since October 1, Palestinian assailants have killed 11 Israelis and wounded more than 100 in a series of some 60 attacks.
“If anything, the publication of these guidelines now gives the Palestinians a prize for their terrorism and obstinacy. It also supports the overall atmosphere of Israeli boycotts,” the official said.
The guidelines, to be published out of Brussels under the guidance of the EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, do not need to be put to a vote.
The document simply puts together already existing guidelines and legislation with regard to “settlement products.” It is designed to help EU member states understand what the law is with regard to the labeling of such products.
The EU considers Jewish communities over the pre- 1967 lines in east Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the West Bank to be illegal under international law.
For over a decade, Israeli products produced over the pre-1967 lines have been exempt from Israel’s free trade agreement with the EU. Codes have been placed on the products to allow EU custom officials to properly determine if the products were produced within the Green Line or over it.
These guidelines would provide European consumers in stores with that same information.
Under pressure from the United States, the EU backed away from its push to publish the settlement guidelines during the nine-month negotiations period brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry that ended without any results in April 2014.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzippy Hotovely reiterated Netanyahu’s assertion that labelling settlement goods rewards terror:
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely told the Spanish foreign minister on Thursday that a European Union plan to mark Israeli products made in factories over the Green Line is “rewarding terrorism.”
Hotovely told Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo at a Madrid meeting that the measure would also be ineffective, saying it “will not advance the peace process, and will not affect Israel’s economy.”
“The only ones to suffer from this directive is the thousands of Palestinians employees in factories in Judea and Samaria,” she said. referring to the West Bank by its biblical name.
“While you mark products, our citizens are being stabbed in the streets,” she said. “This is rewarding terrorism.”
Interestingly, there was support for Hotovely’s words from the opposition too:
Hotovely’s words echoed those of opposition leader and Zionist Union chairman Isaac Herzog, who made similar comments to Britain’s ambassador to Israel, David Quarrey.
Herzog said that while he supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he “strongly opposes this harmful and unnecessary measure,” and called it “a prize that Europe is bestowing for terror.”
“[It] serves only one purpose – continuing the hate and regional conflict. Marking these products is an act of violence by extremists who want to further inflame the situation and the EU is falling into their trap,” he said, according to a Hebrew-language transcript provided by Herzog’s spokesperson.
The Zionist Union chairman also warned that the move would be tantamount to a “blow to tens of thousands of Palestinians employed in factories in the West Bank under proper conditions who bring in an income for their families.”
His comments were a rare note of unity between Herzog and the ruling government, both vociferously opposed to the prospect of settlement goods being labeled.
Some Knesset members have come up with interesting initiatives to combat this boycott in all but name.
MK Michael Oren, former Ambassador to the US and generally known for his benign tone and moderate views, not only lashed out in blistering terms at the antisemitic decision as he pointed out the hypocrisy of the EU, but went to a Jerusalem supermarket and began labelling EU goods in protest at the new EU guidelines:
Coming soon to a supermarket near you: a European Union label to warn Israeli consumers not to buy products make in European countries? Kulanu MK Michael Oren went to a supermarket on Emek Refaim Street in the capital’s German Colony neighborhood and placed blue EU stickers on crackers, cookies and beer from Spain, France and Germany to protest the pending publication of guidelines to enable EU member states to place consumer labels on exports from east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
“The EU decision to label Israeli products is anti-Semitic,” Oren said. “There are dozens of border disputes and ‘occupations’ in the world but the EU decided to single out Israel. They are not labeling products from China, India or Turkey – only Israel.”
Oren also pointed out other absurdities:
Oren complained that the decision completely ignored the fact that six Israeli prime ministers tried to negotiate a two-state solution but the PLO rejected their offers. He said the EU had not taken into account that the Palestinian Authority is refusing to negotiate with Israel and is actively inciting to commit terrorist attacks against Jews.
The former ambassador to the US questioned why the EU would take steps that could result in hundreds of Palestinians losing their jobs. But he said the oddest decision was to label products from the Golan Heights at a time when there is no functioning Syrian government with which Israel could negotiate a peace agreement.
“Do they want us to give the Golan to ISIS?” Oren asked.
“Israeli consumers need to know that when they buy European products, they are supporting the EU’s anti-Semitic policies.”
Oren, a historian, noted that European anti-Semitism predates Christianity. European labeling of Jewish products in the past led to dark days for Europe, he said.
Kol hakavod to Oren on his courage and his outspokenness. Proving his point on the EU’s double standards here are a couple of tweets from International Law Prof. Eugene Kontorovich:
Likud MK Miki Zohar wants to step up a degree and turn the boycott labelling of European products from a private initiative into an actual law:
Likud MK Miki Zohar is proposing a bill that would have Israel marking products imported from countries that label Israeli goods manufactured in Judea and Samaria.
“Products made in countries that boycott Israeli-made goods will be marked with a special stamp to discriminate against those boycotting countries,” Zohar said.
“By doing so, the Israeli consumer will be afforded the opportunity to decide whether to purchase products from countries that have joined the boycott of Israeli products from Judea and Samaria, the Jordan Valley, the Golan Heights or any other area of the country.”
The bill stipulates that importers and marketers would have to mark the relevant products. The proposal also includes a six-month prison sentence for any importer or marketer who fails to mark such products.
“The boycott organizations in Europe are cynically using terms like ‘human rights’ and the ‘fight against the Israeli occupation,’ but their political agenda is to boycott all of Israel and undermine its existence as the country of the Jewish people. This is gross hypocrisy and a double standard,” Zohar said.
Despite Israel’s protestations, the EU Ambassador to Israel defended the guidelines:
Products produced over the pre-1967 lines are not “made in Israel” and cannot be labeled that way, European Union Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen said on Tuesday.
He spoke to The Jerusalem Post in defense of the pending publication of guidelines to enable member states to place consumer labels on exports from east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.
“The EU position is that we do not recognize Israeli authority beyond the Green Line. It is not part of Israel. It is not part of what we understand to be Israel’s international recognized borders,” said Faaborg-Andersen in a telephone interview.
“For that reason we cannot agree that products that come from settlements beyond the Green Line are labeled ‘made in Israel.’” Faaborg-Andersen will be one of the featured speakers at the fourth Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference in Jerusalem on November 18.
However there is plenty of evidence to prove that the EU is not only wrong-headed, it is acting illegally in labelling settlements goods.
Rob Harris who blogs at Eirael has written an extensive backgrounder explaining how the EU is violating international law with its stance towards Israeli settlements:
The EU Ambassador’s assertion affirms that the Union is in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 242, which allows Israel to administer the territories of East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), the Golan Heights, etc., until peace settlements would come into effect. Eugene V. Rostow, one of the authors of Resolution 242 noted:
“Resolution 242, which as undersecretary of state for political affairs between 1966 and 1969 I helped produce, calls on the parties to make peace and allows Israel to administer the territories it occupied in 1967 until “a just and lasting peace in the Middle East” is achieved. When such a peace is made, Israel is required to withdraw its armed forces “from territories” it occupied during the Six-Day War — not from “the” territories nor from “all” the territories, but from some of the territories, which included the Sinai Desert, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
The 1920 San Remo agreement effectively made the right to a Jewish national home in Palestine binding. Territorial borders were not defined but the biblical phrase “from Dan to Beersheba” was applied by British leaders. The identified territory would necessarily include Judea and Samaria (West Bank).
With respect to Resolution 242, the EU is violating international law on two counts: (1) failing to recognise Israel’s authority in said territories, and (2) by attempting to prevent Israel from coming to peace-deals with defensible borders.
The EU’s stance on the Golan Heights is particularly bizarre, given the fact that the zone was used by Syrian forces to almost continually harass Israel and its citizens until the 1967 Six Day War, which gave rise to Resolution 242.
Despite insistence to the contrary, the EU, whilst advocating for a two-state solution which it accuses Israel of undermining, is in fact acting in contravention of the very principles set down in successive plans for a two-state solution, based on Resolution 242. EU behaviour also delegitimises Israel’s just claim to a secure existence. Should a new labelling policy be enshrined in EU law, it will represent another epoch of a broad long-term strategy, which demonises the Jewish State in an effort toward Arab appeasement.
For an even more detailed and thorough expose of the illegality of the EU’s restrictions on Israeli products within the World Trade Organization click on the link (PDF) to read the article by International Law expert Prof. Eugene Kontorovich and Law Professor Avi Bell.
In fact a European MP, Baastien Belder, has already decried the guidelines as illegal so this little detail is not exactly unknown to the EU.
But it seems their hatred of Israel has overcome their common sense, their sense of justice, and even their desire to improve the lives of the Palestinians. In fact the ostensible beneficiaries of their new guidelines are most likely the ones who will suffer the most.
Israel must take the battle to the EU’s court and sue them for damages at the WTO and in any other forum where the illegality of this miserable decision can be proven. We have to learn to be more pro-active in defending our own interests.