15 December 2009
JfJfP welcomes the Defra advice Labelling of produce grown in the Occupied Palestinian Territories published on 10 December 2009 on the “labelling of produce grown in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”, in particular para 4 which states: “Traders and retailers may wish to indicate whether the product originated from an Israeli settlement or from Palestinian producers. This could take the form, for example, of ‘Produce of the West Bank (Israeli settlement produce)’ or ‘Produce of the West Bank (Palestinian produce)’, as appropriate.”
We regard this labeling advice as a small but important step towards transparency. We will be urging our supporters to put pressure on supermarkets and other outlets to implement the new guidelines without delay, so that consumers can make a genuinely informed choice about the origin of their purchases.
We regret that Defra has limited its guidelines to advice only. The designation of origin “Produce of the West Bank” is ambiguous and therefore potentially misleading. It must, by law, be clarified. Voluntary guidance is insufficient in this case and we urge the Government to ensure that proper labeling is made a legal requirement.
Such a requirement should apply not just to goods grown in the Occupied Palestinian Territories but also to goods manufactured in illegal Israeli settlements or using resources expropriated from the Occupied Palestinian Territories. These are sometimes marketed in the UK and elsewhere as ‘made by’ followed by a Company name and Israeli registered address. This is as incorrect and misleading as it would be if the goods had claimed to be “Produce of Israel”.
We call on Her Majesty’s Government to clarify this matter.
We further note that para 9 of Defra’s advice states clearly: “Israeli settlements in the OPT are unlawful under international law. They contravene Article 49 (6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its own civilian population into occupied territory.”
Given that the UK government recognizes unambiguously that the settlements are illegal, we are puzzled that it apparently remains legal for produce from them to be sold in the UK. We call on HMG to prohibit their sale; and, as long as they remain on retailers’ shelves, we renew our call for consumers to boycott them.