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Are European settlement labels a double standard?

Israeli government allegations of an EU double standard are largely grounded on misguided or incomplete information.

By Lorenzo Kamel

Illustrative photo of a man reading the labels of two products. (Shutterstock.com)

Illustrative photo of a man reading the labels of two products. (Shutterstock.com)

In 2005 the European Union clarified that products originating in areas beyond Israel’s pre-1967 lines do not benefit from preferential tariff treatment under the EU-Israel Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Ten years later, on September 10, 2015, the European Parliament passed an historical resolution calling on the EU to issue labels for products from those areas — settlement products. It passed 525 to 70 (with 31 abstentions), and will likely be effective from October 1 of this year.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely reacted by saying Israel would not accept “discrimination” between goods produced in different parts of “its territory.” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon argued that labeling goods “reeks of boycott.” Echoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Nahshon claimed that, “Europe treats Israel with sanctimonious hypocrisy, while it doesn’t raise the issue of similar solutions in Northern Cyprus and Western Sahara.”

Allegations of an EU double standard are largely grounded on misguided or incomplete information. Just as the EU does not support Israeli entities in the Palestinian territories, the EU does not provide support to Turkish entities established in Northern Cyprus under Turkey’s national law. Just as it relates to Israeli nationals in the occupied Palestinian territories, the EU evaluates the most suitable implementation methods for “individual projects” in Northern Cyprus, where perhaps half of the estimated 300,000 residents were either born in Turkey or are children of settlers.

As the EU itself clearly states in its own report, it does not enter into financing agreements with the Turkish Cypriot authorities, “because they are not officially recognized by the international community, the [EU] Commission has primarily implemented the assistance by entering into contracts directly and acting as the sole contracting authority.”

These EU policies are carried out with the express purpose of “facilitate[ing] the reunification of Cyprus” and with the aim of “improving the contacts between the two communities.” They are fully consistent with international law, including with Article 43 of the Hague Regulations, according to which building infrastructure is to a certain extent part of the occupier’s obligations, as long as the infrastructure is built for the benefit of the local population.

As for the Western Sahara case, the EU signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) only with Morocco and not with any other entity that lays claim to the disputed territory. In the Palestinian context, however, the EU also signed a FTA with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). As argued by Israeli scholars Neve Gordon and Sharon Pardo, each of the two FTAs, with Israel and the PLO, has its own territorial scope and “there is no overlapping between the two.”

The four-year agreement with Morocco that the European Parliament approved in December 2013 to allow European boats to fish in territorial waters off Western Sahara is hardly free of defects. If nothing because the aspirations of the local indigenous Sahrawi population as well as the concerns expressed by several international organizations were largely ignored. Yet, the two contexts should not be conflated, both from an historical and a strictly legal point of view.

The double standard claim is thus largely misplaced and the resolution passed in September 10th by the European Parliament can hardly be conflated with a form of boycott. It is indeed a belated step that tries to hinder the ongoing status quo through the labeling of products manufactured beyond Israel’s internationally recognized sovereign territory.

To maintain what has been for years a blurred approach, allowing preferential treatment for products manufactured in settlements, would in fact function as a sort of incentive for the ongoing status quo. This is particularly meaningful considering that many of the products originating from settlements are destined for Israeli markets and that most of the natural resources exploited by Israeli companies in the Palestinian Territories are aimed to the benefit of Israeli citizens (about 94 percent of the materials produced in the Israeli quarries in the West Bank is transported to Israel).

Ignoring this reality would betray the principles on which the unity of the European continent was forged.

Dr. Lorenzo Kamel is a Research Fellow (2013-16) at Harvard’s CMES. Among his most recent publications: ‘Imperial Perceptions of Palestine: British Influence and Power in Late Ottoman Times’ (I.B. Tauris 2015) and ‘Arab Spring: The Role of the Peripheries’ (Special issue of Mediterranean Politics, May 2015, co-edited with D.Huber) 

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    1. Jason Kidd

      The anti-Israel bias portrayed by Europe is startling.

      Reply to Comment
      • rose

        The pro-Israel bias, in case. The EU is Israel’s best partner and supports also its army. There is a double-standard, but in Israel’s favour.

        Reply to Comment
        • Jason Kidd

          “The EU is Israel’s best partner and supports also its army. ”

          Israel achieves that based in merit. Imagine how much better it would be without the bias.

          “There is a double standard, but it’s in Israel’s favor.”


          Reply to Comment
          • Jason Kidd

            In fact, I read both and disagree with the conclusion.
            It is outrageous to deny the anti-Israel bias.

            Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        –This apparently increased startle response strikes me for one as ungenuine.

        –Rose is right: the bias or “double standard” of the EU runs the other way. Clearly. As Dr. Lorenzo Kamel shows.

        –The national psychosis or hysteria or whatever it is that tells Israelis the contrary needs to be treated.

        –“about 94 percent of the materials produced in the Israeli quarries in the West Bank is transported to Israel.”
        If that is not classic colonialism nothing is.

        –This article by Kamel does what so many +972 articles do so well: subvert pernicious assumptions “grounded on misguided or incomplete information.” You can’t beat it.

        Reply to Comment
        • BigCat

          The country you claim to come from is burning as we speak. African American youths are swimming in their own blood in Chicago and elsewhere in the US. Cops are being slaughtered on US streets. US kids are being slaughtered on the streets by cops.

          But, YOU, “Ben” alias “AverageAmerican” alias “ViktorArajs” alias “MuslimJew” alias etc. are here every day, every hour and every minute, fixating on- and obsessing about Jews and Israel and salivating on how to hurt them?

          You are pathetic, and very mentally ill, “AverageAmerican”…eh….”Ben”! Seek professional help!

          Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            With each comment you post, you show how fixated on- and obsessed you are with Jews and Israel.
            When you pose as “Viktor Arajs” you call, among others, for genocide against Jews!

            When you pose as “Average American”, you post the kind of comments one reads about Jews on websites like the ‘Stormfront’ and other neo-N@zi websidtes.

            When you post as “MuslimJew” you use racist and anti-Semitic slurs against Israeli posters on this site.

            When you pose as “Ben”, “Richard Flanz”, “Been There”, “None”, “Dekkers”, “David T.”, “Bluto”, etc. you try to come across as a different personality – albeit still repugnant.

            You are very mentally ill and pathetic, Viktor….eh….”Ben”.

            Get a life and seek professional help.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Sigh. The Lehava thugs gave you a night off from chasing down Arab pedestrians and beating them? Since I don’t post as any of those names, and you know it, and repeating your lies will just be, well, repeating your lies, you are just left sitting there fuming, bereft of the slightest argument, having achieved nothing productive except to bring forth the Lehava street’s empty, mindless hatred. That’s all. Your trolling resembles masturbation. Bye bye.

            Reply to Comment
          • BigCat

            And let’s NOT forget that it took us about ONE YEAR to get “Ben” to admit that “Ben/Brian/Bryan” are the aliases of the SAME person!

            Now, “Ben” is talking about “masturbation”? Hilarious! It seems that’s what he does, while sitting ALL DAY in his messed-up room behind his rugged computer juggling from one Jewish website to another doing “research” on Jews and Israel, watch ISM- and BTS video and rushing back here to paste the results of his “research”. Keep whacking it, Viktor….eh…. “Ben”!.

            Get a life, moron. What a psychopath!

            Reply to Comment
    2. Dutch

      The EU is complicit in the ‘pillage’ of Western Saharan resources, a war crime.

      “These EU policies are carried out with the express purpose of “facilitate[ing] the reunification of Cyprus”

      The EU aides and subsidizes employment, and builds infrastructure for Turkish settlers illegally occupying Northern Cyprus. The EU claims its about ‘reunification’, but the result is the same, aid to Turkish settlers who occupy Northern Cyprus illegally. Turkish settlers who are themselves complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Greek Cypriots.

      Reply to Comment