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WATCH: Encouraging Europe to label Israeli settlement products

Will Israel’s largest trading partner (the EU) use its economic muscle against Israeli settlements? Some famous former officials from Israel and beyond are calling for just that.

Israeli bulldozers seen in the settlement of Halamish showing the continued building and expansion of the settlement on the lands of the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, April 19, 2013. (Photo by: Ahmad Al-Bazz/Activestills.org)

The European Union once again dragged its feet on a decision to implement the labeling of products from Israeli settlements this May, in deference to John Kerry’s latest peace efforts.

Depending on the outcome – or lack thereof – of Kerry’s diplomacy, however, the issue could soon reappear on the EU agenda and a number of high profile Israeli, international and Palestinian figures are making clear their support for labeling.

The Elders, a group of former statesmen (and women) working to advance human rights, justice and peace, published a video last week explaining the importance of labeling settlement products.

Speaking in the video, former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg compares giving consumers choices in using their purchasing power to support environmentally friendly manufacturing in choosing not to buy settlement products.

If a product “was produced [on] the other side of the fence, the other side of reality, the other side of goodness, I should have, as a customer, a choice, or at least I should be informed” before purchasing it,” Burg says.

Alon Liel, former director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and outspoken critic of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, explains that as someone who views settlements as “placing a huge, huge question mark on the future of peace in the region,” he treats products produced in settlements differently than those manufactured in Israel proper.

When regulated by official guidelines, labeling is a matter of policy. Its impact, however, is to empower regular citizens to use their purchasing power to effect social and political change, Semma Quran of Palestinians for Dignity explains in the video.

Just seeing labels on different products can lead consumers to research the differences between them, Quran says. That, she adds, “can also cause a certain political awareness of what’s going on here, which is something that we always strive for.”

Former Irish president and current Elders member Mary Robinson echoed that idea earlier this year, saying, “people throughout Europe, in their capacity as consumers, have the power to reignite hope in the Middle East.”

Encouraging the EU to play a stronger role in the region, the Elders believe that Europe “has the potential to alter the current stalemate by making clear the distinction between Israel within the pre-1967 borders and Israeli settlements beyond the Green Line in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” a statement from The Elders Foundation said.

Earlier this year, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter noted that Europe has long opposed settlement expansion and could “introduce a clear labeling of products made in Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

Voices from within the EU are also becoming louder in their calls to label settlement products, both for consumer choice and to ensure they are not granted favored tariff status. As reported in +972 earlier this year, European diplomats based in Jerusalem and the West Bank sent a report to Brussels with a clear message: principled and legal stands against illegal settlements – and in favor of a two-state solution – are in vain if the EU takes no action.

A report written for the UN Human Rights Council in February went even further, calling on governments to warn business against operating in settlements.

Will Europe take a leading role on Israel/Palestine?
EU diplomats to Brussels: Put your money where your mouth is
Resource: EU Heads of Mission report on Israeli settlements 

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    1. rgengland

      Once again we have the same chorus of voices calling for change in Israel, by saying that the settlements over the 1948/9 ceasefire line are the biggest hurdle to peace in the region.
      The issue of settlements is a red herring, as proven by their removal in Sinai and Gaza when the situation warrants or demands it, in the search for peace.
      Refugees are, and will always be, the main issue.
      UNRWA definition of Palestinians as the worlds only hereditary refugees, and the Palestinian demand of “right of return” preclude any form of meaningful progress on the difficult road to peace.
      And then there is the case of the million plus Jews Ethnically Cleansed from the Arab/Muslim lands after 1948.
      There seems to be another Ethnic Cleansing repeating itself now; the victims this time being the CHRISTIANS in the Middle East.

      Reply to Comment
      • Anne O'Nimmus

        The “settlements” are NOT in Israel, they are in occupied Palestine. Any goods produced there, with stolen Palestinian resources, are from Palestine. Goods produced on stolen land with the input of stolen resources are NOT Israeli goods, they are the products of the thieves.

        Reply to Comment
    2. Jonny

      @Rgengland – 1948/9 ceasefire line – Straw man

      It relates to the 1967 ceasefire (green) line as is made clear in the article above.

      Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        >”It relates to the 1967 ceasefire (green) line

        Yes. To “pre-1967 borders” which is “1948/9 ceasefire line”. They are the same, capish?

        Reply to Comment
    3. Kolumn9

      The same tired old faces that used to resort to false hope to push us towards making concessions. The Palestinians are ready for peace. Of course you can place your security in the hands of the Palestinian security forces. The Arab world is just waiting for peace with Israel to march off together towards the bright future. Just one more brave step and then another and peace is just around the corner. You have nothing to fear and isn’t it going to be nice to have coffee in Damascus and ski in the Cedars?

      Then, when the buses started blowing up they were relegated to trying to scare us into concessions. We’ll never be able to stop the suicide bombings without concessions. Make concessions or the Europeans will stop loving us. Israel will be isolated. The economy will suffer without a diplomatic process. The diplomatic tsunami is around the corner. Obama will force you into it. The Arab Spring has changed everything. The demographics are against us. The Israelis are leaving. The economy is weak. The occupation is corrupting. People will stop going to the army (or miluim). The settlers are making us poor.

      Yet here we are. By all measures there is no doom. Its absence must be very frustrating for them. So, now they have moved onto the next step. Having failed in their predictions of the bright future and in their predictions of looming doom they are now allying with Israel’s enemies to try to make real some of their own fears. Left-wingers who argued that boycotts and isolation will be the result of Israeli policy are now in practice calling for boycotts and isolation.

      Sometimes reading MJ Rosenberg is entertaining.. Direct quote..

      “Although the Israeli peace camp keeps warning that Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian land isolates Israel, visits from top U.S. officials show it isn’t so. It demonstrates the opposite. And, in so doing, weakens the forces of peace even more. Their dire predictions are repeatedly shown not to be true;”

      Apparently, the ‘forces of peace’ are the ones that are now predicting/demanding that Israel be weakened and isolated. Funny. Not too long ago such people would objectively be called anti-Israel. “Their dire predictions are repeatedly shown not to be true..” The world isn’t working the way they predicted so now they are demanding and acting to push the world into the direction of their dire predictions. It is almost comical if it wasn’t so sad.

      Reply to Comment
    4. sh

      Straw men, red herrings and green lines. Metaphors for avoiding the subject of the post which is that the post-1967 occupation is illegal and universally recognized as such.

      Unfortunately, as far as fresh produce is concerned, Israelis living within pre-1967 borders are no longer in a position to know what comes from anywhere under Israel’s domination except the Golan (for some reason still considered a certificate of excellence as well as a lesser political issue). Apart from that, all fruit and veg goes on sale here without indication of provenance. They saw to that when BDS started biting. So anti-Occupation Israelis are forced to make demeaning videos like the one that appears here to convey that the solution to our problems lies in the hands of the European Union rather than our own.

      Oh, blow fruit, take a look at politically correct Hashahar Ha’oleh – the Rising Dawn (not to be confused with the Golden one over the pond) – an indisputably 1948 chocolate spread
      It’s recommended by Burg himself to the wrathful sounds of the Verdi’s Dies Irae 🙂
      Finger-lickin’ good, no cholesterol.

      Reply to Comment