Cries of 'antisemitism' and 'boycott' at EC demand for labels


November 11, 2015
Sarah Benton

This posting has these items:
1) Reuters/Ynet European Commission Adopts Guidelines for Labelling Products From Israeli Settlements, gives the facts packaged with a number of Israeli officials’ statements about antisemitic boycott;
2) Haaretz: European Commission Adopts Guidelines for Labelling Products From Israeli Settlements, well-informed piece by Barak Ravid;
3) Times of Israel: EU sets guidelines on labelling settlement goods, drawing Israeli anger, takes up the antisemitism line but also quotes officials saying UK’s more rigorous rules have no effect on Israeli exports;
4) WSJ: European Union Outlines Guidelines for Labeling Products From Jewish Settlements in Palestinian Territories, accurate article by Laurence Norman ;
5) EEAS: Interpretative Notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967;
6) Notes: Country of origin/ provenance law; consumer protection laws require the labelling of country of origin for foodstuffs. For other products, it varies though is generally not required, European Council


Would you buy this wine if the label said ‘made in Shiloh’, an illegal settlement in the West Bank? A worker carries boxes of wine for export at Shiloh Wineries, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Nov. 8. Shiloh Wineries exports half of the more than 100,000 bottles of wine it produces annually. Photo by Reuters

EU Commission approves settlement product labelling

Products coming from Israeli factories in the West Bank, East Jerusalem. Gaza, and the Golan Heights will be labelled as ‘settlement products’; Foreign Ministry summons EU ambassador to receive reprimand.

By Itamar Eichner, Reuters/Ynet
November 11, 2015

The European Union’s executive approved on Wednesday new guidelines for labelling products from Jewish settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights, a move that has already been criticized by Israel as “disguised antisemitism.”

The European Commission “adopted this morning the Interpretative Notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967,” said an EU official.

Drawn up over three years by the European Commission, the guidelines mean Israeli producers must explicitly label farm goods and cosmetics that come from settlements when they are sold in the European Union. The EU guidelines aren’t expected to necessarily apply to Israeli industrial or electronic products, or to non-fresh foods.

Israeli officials were briefed ahead of the decision and some suggested it was antisemitic.

“This is a technical measure, not a political one,” one Commission source said on Tuesday. “The occupied territory is not part of the sovereign state of Israel, so goods cannot be sold as ‘Made in Israel’.”

The EU does not recognize the legitimacy of Israel’s presence in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War. It says the labelling policy aims to distinguish between goods made inside the internationally accepted borders of Israel and those outside.

Gaza seems to be included despite the fact that Israel has no presence in the Strip anymore. Officials in Israel point to the inclusion of Gaza as an indication the decision is in fact political in nature, and meant to show that in the eyes of the EU, Israel’s occupation of the Gaza Strip has not ended because of the blockade imposed over the Palestinian enclave.

Britain, Belgium and Denmark already affix labels to Israeli goods, differentiating between those from Israel and those, particularly fruits and vegetables, that come from the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. Now all 28 EU member states would have to apply labels.

The guidelines determine that merely labelling products as “Product from the Golan Heights” or “Product from the West Bank” would not suffice, and the label must also include the words “Israeli settlement” in brackets. If an Israeli farmer refuses, a retail outlet can do so, as the European Commission has sufficient information about where goods come from.

Israel’s ambassador to the European Union, David Walzer, warned it could make difficult peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians harder and the EU might no longer be a welcome broker.

“We made it very clear that we welcome EU contributions to the peace process,” Walzer said before the decision was formalized. “This might force us to reconsider that.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry summoned the EU ambassador to Israel, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, for an official rebuke.

“Israel condemns the decision of the European Union to label Israeli products originating from areas that are under Israeli control since 1967. We regret that the EU has chosen, for political reasons, to take such an exceptional and discriminatory step, inspired by the boycott movement, particularly at this time, when Israel is confronting a wave of terrorism targeting any and all of its citizens,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“It is puzzling and even irritating that the EU chooses to apply a double standard concerning Israel, while ignoring that there are over 200 other territorial disputes worldwide, including those occurring within the EU or on its doorstep. The claim that this is a technical matter is cynical and baseless,” the ministry went on to say.

“Product labelling does not advance any political process between Israel and the Palestinians. The opposite is the case – it is bound to reinforce the PA’s refusal to conduct direct negotiations with Israel, negotiations that the EU claims to support. Product labelling will strengthen the radical elements advocating a boycott against Israel and denying Israel’s right to exist, contradicting positions that the EU publicly opposes. This recent step raises questions regarding the role that the EU aspires to play. It may also have implications for Israel-EU relations.”

Israel worked hard to delay the publication of the guidelines, both by lobbying EU states directly, and by lobbying the US government so that it might put pressure on the EU. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has even contacted a number of European leaders in the past few days, claiming that the labelling of products would be immoral.

Sources in the European Union rejected Israeli claims that the move was a boycott, saying that since this step does not include a ban on importing products from the settlements, it does not constitute a boycott or any sort of punishment.

The sources said it is a measure that informs European consumers about the origin of these products. “Those who say such a step is only taken against Israel forget that there are areas of the world that are under occupation, from which you can’t export products to Europe at all, like Crimea for instance,” they added.

A second Commission source said the guidelines were requested by EU governments who sought clarity on existing EU labelling rules and that the five page document of some 12 paragraphs did not constitute new legislation.

Since 2004, Israeli settlement products have not benefited from trade preferences to the European Union, while for all countries the EU has agricultural legislation that requires labelling of the origin of fruit, vegetables and honey.

Industrial goods, including processed food, are not subject to mandatory labelling under EU law, but can be voluntary.

Israel’s Economy Ministry estimates the impact will be about $50 million a year, affecting fresh produce such as grapes and dates, wine, poultry, honey, olive oil and cosmetics.

That is around a fifth of the $200-$300 million worth of goods produced in settlements each year, but a drop in the ocean next to the $30 billion of goods and services Israel exports to the EU annually, a third of all its exports.

Elisha Ben Kimon and the Associated Press contributed to this report.



Women look at ‘made in Israel’ cosmetic products manufactured in the Israeli kibbutz settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the Dead Sea resort of Kalya. Photo by Gali Tibbon

European Commission Adopts Guidelines for Labelling Products From Israeli Settlements

EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to be reprimanded over the decision.

Barak Ravid, Haaretz
November 11, 2015

The European Commission adopted Wednesday morning the Notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, a senior EU official said. According to the official, the notice will contain guidelines for labelling of products from West bank settlements.

Following the decision, EU Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg-Andersen was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem to be reprimanded on Wednesday evening.

The guidelines document states that “for products from the West Bank or the Golan Heights that originate from settlements, an indication limited to ‘product from the Golan Heights’ or ‘product from the West Bank’ would not be acceptable. Even if they would designate the wider area or territory from which the product originates, the omission of the additional geographical information that the product comes from Israeli settlements would mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product. In such cases the expression ‘Israeli settlement’ or equivalent needs to be added, in brackets, for example. Therefore, expressions such as ‘product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)’ or ‘product from the West Bank (Israeli settlement)’ could be used.”

The guidelines will apply to fresh fruit and vegetables, wine, honey, olive oil, eggs, poultry, organic products and cosmetics. They will not apply to packaged foods and industrial products that aren’t cosmetics.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry said in response that the European Union “chooses, for political motives, to take an unusual and discriminatory step” at a time when Israel is facing a wave of terror. In a statement, the ministry said it was “surprised and even angered by the fact that the EU chooses to implement a double standard against Israel, while ignoring 200 territorial disputes taking place today around the world, including within [the EU] or right on [Israel’s] doorstep.” The claim that the decision is a technical step, added the statement, “is a baseless cynical claim.”

“Labelling products will not advance peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians,” the ministry continued. “On the contrary, it may only bolster the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to hold direct negotiations with Israel – negotiations which the EU says it supports.” The decision to label products, the statement went on, “will strengthen the radical elements who are pushing for boycotts against Israel and who deny its right to exist, positions which the EU claims it objects to. The latest move raises questions over the role the EU wishes to play, and may have consequences on relations between Israel and the EU.”

A senior official at the Foreign Ministry said Israel has received the guidelines documents, and that experts from the ministry’s legal branch are now analyzing it to formulate an initial legal opinion regarding its ramifications as well as ways to respond.

The decision adopted Wednesday is a result of three years of administrative work and discussion at the European Union institutions. During this time, the EU has repeatedly warned Israel over possible consequences of continued construction in the settlements.

In recent months, collection of information about the guidelines has been a top priority at the Israeli embassies in the 28 countries of the EU. But despite the major effort to learn what the label guidelines will provide, virtually no relevant information has been obtained. That, senior officials in Jerusalem have said, is because of the meticulous manner in which work on the document has been keep out of reach of those who have not needed access to its content.



EU sets guidelines on labelling settlement goods, drawing Israeli anger

Foreign Ministry vows to fight decision by European Council*, says ties could be affected; EU argues move is technical, will barely affect trade

By Raphael Ahren and Raoul Wootliff, AP /Times of Israel
November 11, 2015

The European Union [Commission] approved guidelines Wednesday for its member states to label products made in West Bank settlements, a move that has already been criticized by Israel as “disguised antisemitism.”

At a meeting in Brussels, the European Commissioner “adopted this morning the interpretative notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967,” the EU’s executive said.

Wednesday’s move by the European Council* [Commission], which will also apply to the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, underscores the EU’s unhappiness over Israel’s continued expansion of settlements on territory that Palestinians are seeking for a future state.

The EU’s instructions for the labels says that the labels should say “Made in the West Bank” or “Made in the Golan,” in either case continuing with the words “(Israeli settlement),” according to Channel 10 news.

While European diplomats have downplayed the move, which has been in the works for over a year, the Israeli government sees it as akin to a boycott on the state.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded to the move by summoning EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Anderson for a dressing down, Channel 10 reported.

The Foreign Ministry warned the move could affect ties and accused Brussels in a statement of applying a double standard to Israel “while ignoring 200 other territorial disputes around the world.”

“Israel condemns the decision of the European Union to label Israeli goods originating over the ’67 lines. We regret that the EU chose for political reasons to take an unusual and discriminatory step drawn from the realm of boycotts, just as Israel is facing a wave of terror directed at all citizens,” the statement read. “The claim that this is a technical step is a cynical, baseless claim.”

The ministry added that labelling goods would not lead to peace with the Palestinians but instead bolster Palestinian refusal to negotiate.

“Labelling will strengthen radicals trying to advance boycotts on Israel and deny its right to exist, a stance that the EU claims to oppose,” the statement read.

The EU Commission said the guidelines are merely a technical measure it was forced to impose after three member states — Britain, Belgium and Denmark — already had imposed special labelling on their own, since the EU needed streamlined guidelines throughout the 28 nations.

The measures will primarily cover fruit and vegetables from the area. The labelling should affect less than 1 percent of all trade between the EU and Israel, which stands at some 30 billion euros. EU officials said that in Britain, where it is already in place, it has had no negative economic effect.

On some products, like fruit and vegetables, the labelling referring to settlements will be mandatory, while on others it will be voluntary.

The decision covers not only West Bank settlements, but also the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, which were effectively annexed by Israel in the early 1980s, though the international community never recognized the move.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said the move unfairly singles out Israel, describing the decision as “anti-Israel and anti-Jewish.”

“European hypocrisy and hatred of Israel has crossed every line,” she said following the announcement.

Shaked told Israel Radio the government plans to fight the decision.

“We will study decision once the full details are released and decide on the appropriate response,” she said. “We will consider legal steps if necessary.”

Exports from Jewish settlements — which consist mostly of agricultural products since there are no major technological companies — are minuscule compared to those from Israel proper.

According to the most recent available statistics from the Israel Manufacturers Association, from 2012, exports from the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights amount to $100 million a year. That is about 0.7 percent of the approximately $14 billion the EU annually imports from within the Green Line. In 2014, it was exactly €13,070,556,887; or about NIS 57 billion.

There are 14 industrial zones with 800 factories and agricultural facilities in the West Bank, according to Yigal Dilmoni, a spokesman for the Yesha Council of Jewish settlements.

If these companies were to lose money due to labelling or a boycott, the 15,000 Palestinian workers they employ, who earn more than twice as much working for Jews as they would in the Palestinian Authority, would also be among those hurt, Dilmoni said. In that sense, he argued, labelling will not contribute to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but rather destroy one area in which peaceful coexistence currently exists.

“I don’t know how the world would react to the l,” Dilmoni said recently. “Yes, it could cause us some losses, but we will overcome it.”

Senior Israeli politicians, including from opposition parties, have branded the initiative antisemitic, comparing it to yellow stars Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust.

“It is intolerable that Israel is the only country that has been singled out by the EU for such a policy, despite the fact that there are over 200 disputed territories worldwide,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry stated on its website Tuesday.

On Tuesday evening, Netanyahu met with a bipartisan group of US senators in Washington and urged them to assist Israel in fending off the EU’s decision to label West Bank goods. The 36 senators from both sides of the aisle on Monday sent a letter to the EU’s foreign policy czar Federica Mogherini protesting what they called a “de facto boycott” of Israel. “We believe strongly that these efforts are unwarranted, dangerous, and damaging to the prospects of a negotiated solution to [the Israeli-Palestinian] conflict,” the senators wrote.

European officials flatly reject any accusations of anti-Semitism. “This is an emotional argument without any relevance to the issue. It is not based on political grounds. It’s based on the logic that any product labelled made in Israel needs to be truly come from Israel and not from areas what are not internationally regarded as Israel,” a senior official said Tuesday. “This is the European Union saying what is has always said: The occupied territories are not part of the State of Israel.”

In April, the foreign ministers of 16 of the European Union’s 28 member states sent a letter to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini asking her to promote the labelling of products from the settlements in store chains throughout Europe. Germany wasn’t among the signatories.

Then-foreign minister Avigdor Liberman strongly condemned the bid, suggesting that European nations might as well label them “with a yellow star” such as the one used by Nazi Germany to identify Jews before and during the Holocaust.

AFP contributed to this report.



European Union Outlines Guidelines for Labeling Products From Jewish Settlements in Palestinian Territories

Israel considering barring bloc from future peace talks in retaliation

By Laurence Norman, Wall Street Journal
November 11, 2015

BRUSSELS—The European Union’s executive said Wednesday it had adopted guidelines for labeling Israeli products from settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, a move that comes after a three-year delay and has drawn Israeli threats of retaliation.

The guidelines from the European Commission set out directions for how member states should label the products although significant leeway will still be left for member states.

It will oblige European importers to label agricultural and some industrial products for sale in the 28-nation bloc as being produced in settlements but it will not affect goods coming from the recognized 1967 borders of Israel.

Three EU countries already label goods coming from Israeli settlements—the U.K., Belgium and Denmark.

EU foreign ministers made the decision to label settlement products in 2012 but pressure from Israel and the U.S. has delayed the broad implementation of the step.

The EU insists the move is a purely technical one—applying its own policy that settlements are illegal and that European consumers should be properly informed where the products come from.

However Israeli officials this week accused the EU of “disguised anti-Ssemitism.” The Israeli ambassador to the EU said on Tuesday his country was considering retaliation



Interpretative Notice on indication of origin of goods from the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, pdf file

EC, European External Action Service

November 11, 2015

(1) The European Union, in line with international law, does not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967, namely the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and does not consider them to be part of Israel’s territory, irrespective of their legal status under domestic Israeli law . The Union has made it clear that it will not recognise any changes to pre-1967 borders, other than those agreed by the parties to the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) .

(2) The application of existing Union legislation on indication of origin of products to products originating in Israeli-occupied territories has been the subject of notices or guidance adopted by the relevant authorities of several Member States. There is indeed a demand for clarity from consumers, economic operators and national authorities about existing Union legislation on origin information of products from Israeli-occupied territories . The aim is also to ensure the respect of Union positions and commitments in conformity with international law on the non-recognition by the Union of Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied by Israel since June 1967. This notice also aims at maintaining open and smooth trade, is not hindering trade flows and should not be construed to do so.

(3) This Notice does not create any new legislative rules. While this Notice reflects the Commission’s understanding of the relevant Union legislation, enforcement of the relevant rules remains the primary responsibility of Member States. According to the case-law, while the choice of penalties remains within their discretion, Member States must ensure that penalties for infringements of provisions of Union law are effective, proportionate and dissuasive.

The Commission ensures, as guardian of the Treaties, compliance with these obligations of Member States if need be by way of infringement proceedings. This Notice is without prejudice to other requirements established by Union legislation, and to the interpretation which the Court of Justice may provide.

(4) Several pieces of Union legislation currently provide for mandatory indication of origin of the product in question. The requirement often relates to the designation of the “country of origin”, but sometimes other expressions, such as the “place of provenance”, for foods, are also used. Subject to any specific provision to the contrary in the relevant provisions of Union legislation, in principle determination of the country of origin of foods will be based on the Union’s non-preferential rules of origin laid-down in customs legislation .

(5) When the indication of origin of the product in question is explicitly required by the relevant provisions of Union law, it must be correct and not misleading for the consumer.

(6) When the indication of origin is not mandatory, if the origin is provided on a voluntary basis, the information must be correct and not misleading for the consumer9 .

(7) Since the Golan Heights and the West Bank (including East Jerusalem)10 are not part of the Israeli territory according to international law, the indication ‘product from Israel’ is considered to be incorrect and misleading in the sense of the referenced legislation.

(8) To the extent that the indication of the origin is mandatory, another expression will have to be used, which takes into account how these territories are often known.

(9) For products from Palestine that do not originate from settlements, an indication which does not mislead about the geographical origin, while corresponding to international practice, could be ‘product from the West Bank (Palestinian product)’, ‘product from Gaza’ or ‘product from Palestine’.

(10) For products from the West Bank or the Golan Heights that originate from settlements, an indication limited to ‘product from the Golan Heights’ or ‘product from the West Bank’ would not be acceptable. Even if they would designate the wider area or territory from which the product originates, the omission of the additional geographical information that the product comes from Israeli settlements would mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product.

In such cases the expression ‘Israeli settlement’ or equivalent needs to be added, in brackets, for example. Therefore, expressions such as ‘product from the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement)’ or ‘product from the West Bank (Israeli settlement)’ could be used.

(11) In any event, in accordance with Union consumer protection legislation, indication of origin becomes mandatory when, as regards food, the omission of that information would mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product,14 and, as regards all other goods, when information is omitted that is material, according to the context, to take an informed transactional decision and thereby causes or is likely to cause the average consumer to take a transactional decision that he would not have taken otherwise15. In such cases the examples in previous paragraph would be relevant.

(12) Information on origin is often available to economic operators in various forms16. In many cases information on the origin of products can be found on customs documentation. If they benefit from preferential treatment on importation, the products will be accompanied by proof of preferential origin issued by Israel17, or by the Palestinian authorities18. Other documents such as invoices, delivery notes and transport documents may provide an indication of the origin products. If the information is not readily available from accompanying documents, economic operators may request information on origin, directly from their suppliers or importers.


Notes and links

*The European Council has no decision-making powers. It is the body of all 28 heads of state or government of the EU member states, the European Council President and the President of the European Commission.

* * *

Since 2008 the UK has required all foodstuffs to display country of origin  on the label

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN LABELLING GUIDANCE, pdf file

Food Standards Authority, UK

Our aims in producing this advice are to help: • Manufacturers, producers, retailers and caterers to comply with the law and avoid misleading labelling; • Enforcement authorities to identify and act on misleading origin labelling; and • Consumers through the provision of more consistent, informative and transparent labelling practices.

It includes a section on provenance labelling for foodstuffs.

Labelling of other non-food items are covered by other UK legislation. Although most things are labelled by place of origin. it is not required legally by consumer protection law.

The aims of such legislation are to enhance consumer safety and consumer choice.

© Copyright JFJFP 2022