ECI critical of impending EU labelling directive
EU should promote cooperation – not separation
Brussels, November 10th, 2015 – The European Coalition for Israel has issued a written statement against an impending EU directive to label Israeli goods from the disputed territories in Judea, Samaria, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. The directive is expected to be published in Brussels on Wednesday. In a statement in Brussels on Tuesday ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell called the move, which comes just one day after the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht, “a first step on a slippery slope which risks leading Europe back to its dark ages.”
“The directive is untimely, disproportionate and simply flawed”, he said in Brussels on Tuesday. “This (directive) will not only stigmatize legitimate Israeli businesses, but also put at risk the livelihood of tens of thousands of Palestinians who are currently employed by Israeli companies operating in the disputed territories.”
The directive has been championed for several years by radical anti-Israeli NGO groups across Europe who have as their ultimate goal a complete boycott of Israel.
In a written statement on Tuesday, ECI Legal Counsel Andrew Tucker points out that “the EU provides aid and financial cooperation to numerous countries that maintain settlements in occupied territories, such as Morocco, Turkey and Russia”. “If it is EU policy to not support activities in occupied territories, it should apply that policy equitably in all similar situations”, he writes.
He also explains how the law of occupation does not prohibit the occupying power from allowing its own citizens to be present and undertake productive enterprises in the occupied territories. On the contrary, it recognizes the need for the occupying power to maintain order and safety in those territories pending resolution of the underlying dispute.
Goods from the disputed territories are already excluded from the free trade agreement between EU and Israel and are labelled separately from other Israeli goods when passing through EU customs. The impending guidelines would apply this to consumer labelling also.
Although the European Commission maintains that the directive is strictly “a technical matter” as the political decision was made by the Foreign Ministers of the EU already in 2012, it is clear that the measures are meant to put economic and political pressure on Israel. No such measures have been applied to the Palestinian Authority which still refuses to come back to the negotiating table and instead continues its incitement to violence. Some senior Israeli leaders have called the directive “a reward for Palestinian terrorism”.
According to Israeli Ambassador to the EU, David Walzer, “the directive awakens painful memories in the Jewish communities in Israel and around the world as they commemorate the 77th anniversary of Kristallnacht”.
Sandell insists that the European Commission should not give in to radical groups who want to isolate and demonize Israel. “The new directive does not promote peace and cooperation but rather separation and hostility. The European Commission should know better. European integration in the 1950´s came about by compelling previous enemies to work together, not by separating them or creating further hostility.”
“In a situation where the whole Middle East is being swept into an abyss of violence and chaos, the EU should support Israel as the only country in the region that shares its democratic values and not undermine it by singling out only Israel for labelling”, Sandell concludes.
It is still unclear how the directive should be implemented in the EU member states. The legislation is complicated and varies according to the product. In some cases it may be obligatory on all member states, while it other cases it will be up to member states to decide.