Benjamin Weinthal's recent article, "Germany's gift to BDS: The slippery slope of labeling Israeli products" cannot remain unanswered. It contains too many factual errors, too much twisting of easily verifiable facts and too many tendentious allegations. Without a rebuttal, readers are likely to be seriously misled.
Mr. Weinthal vents his anger at the "unashamedly provocative anti-Israel move" by Germany's government to no longer label as "Made in Israel" goods originating in Israel's illegal settlements in the occupied territories.
If Mr. Weinthal would take the time, however, to examine the relevant EU legislation he would easily see that it does not leave EU member states any other choice. First of all, various EU regulations stipulate, for example, that products like fresh fruit and vegetables, wine, honey, olive oil, cosmetics and foodstuffs sold in the EU market must clearly indicate the country in which they originate. Secondly, the EU Directive on Unfair Commercial Practices forbids misleading consumers by the omission of information by providing erroneous information about the origin of a product.
These EU regulations and directives have existed for many years. They apply to products wherever they originate. Products originating in Israeli settlements are some of the very few to which this legislation is not yet being applied correctly. The EU should have ensured these policies were applied correctly many years ago. It undoubtedly did not do so as part of its traditional policy of appeasing Israel, afraid to cause even the slightest upset, even though the EU has taken similar steps without such scruples in relation to other countries.
Applying these policies will not result in a prohibition on the sale of settlement products, but will give EU consumers the information they need to allow them to make an informed choice. It is possible that some, who until now have refrained from buying products bearing the label “Made in Israel” out of concern that they may come from a settlement, will drop their hesitations in the future once they know that these products have a legitimate Israeli origin.
According to international law (see the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the opinion of the International Court of Justice), the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are not part of the territory of the State of Israel. The internationally recognized territory of Israel is that within the pre-1967 borders. The United States and the European Union have been confirming this for years. Therefore EU legislation simply cannot allow products manufactured in Israeli settlements to be labeled as "Made in Israel."
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte put it very clearly during a press conference on March 8 of this year: Labeling settlement goods "is not a boycott and not sanctions ... you have a right to know what you buy. This is what has been agreed at the European level."
Willem Aldershoff held various positions in the Departments for International Relations and Justice and Home Affairs at the European Commission and is now an independent advisor on EU policy on Israel and Palestine, Brussels.
Michel Waelbroeck, previously a visiting Professor at the Law Schools of New York University and Michigan University, the European University Institute in Florence and Columbia University is Emeritus Professor of European Law at the Université Libre de Bruxelles.
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