The European Union’s supreme court, which now requires all 28 member states to label Israeli products manufactured in Judea and Samaria, has once again revealed its peculiar priorities regarding human rights and international law.
The Europeans and the organizations they fund have never labeled products from any of the world’s other disputed areas, such as northern Cyprus, Western Sahara and dozens of others. In fact, European Union member states even transfer money to and invest in these places. E.U. inquiries into every other conflict besides the Arab-Israeli one have resulted in the rejection of the idea of marking products.
This is because the European Court of Justice has direct links to BDS movement against Israel. Indeed, this ruling is more than a mere “classification”—all boycotts begin by singling out those designated for ostracism. Proof of this can be found in the series of measures that have been implemented by E.U.-funded organizations, which have always argued that marking goods is merely the start of an evolving boycott campaign—with clear and intentional ramifications for the entire Israeli economy.
A study conducted by the Israel-based group NGO Monitor points to a broad coalition of rights groups working to implement a policy of boycotting through product labeling. As early as 2012, for example, the Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation asked for European Union funding to “precisely mark settlement products as a first step,” and suggested intensifying the sanctions until “the complete prohibition of settlement imports … and the prohibition of money transfers to settlements and related activities.”
The code-speak “related activities,” incidentally, includes Israeli and international business initiatives that have nothing to do with the settlements.
This strategy is aptly expressed by the “Platform of French NGOs for Palestine,” an umbrella organization of 40 NGOs in France. Immediately following the French government’s decision to adopt the European Commission’s recommendation in 2015 to label settlement products, the Platform—one of the leading BDS organizations in France—rushed to demand credit for the measure.
Although the Platform claims its campaigns “aren’t part of the boycott movement,” its president, Claude Léostic, said in an interview that “we certainly support it.” In a report that Léostic and other boycott groups published in June 2018, they call on French companies such as Egis, Systra and Alstom to “terminate their contracts with the Israeli authorities” and urge the French government to “take all the measures needed” to prevent French public operators SNCF, RATP and CDC from fulfilling their contracts with the Jerusalem tramway.
Another boycott group working alongside the Platform is the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). Together, they established the “created illegally” campaign in France, which calls on the French government to sever its economic ties with the “Israeli settlements” and any business with connections to them. The campaign’s demands include prohibiting the import of products from these communities to France, convincing French companies “not to invest in the settlements,” and providing information to tourists in order to “ensure they avoid supporting local companies or tourist sites in the settlements.”
The innocuous rhetoric is meant to divert the discussion from its true goal: A complete boycott of Israel, sans actual effort to promote coexistence or human rights in the region. Indeed, these measures will also hurt Palestinians trying to make a living, but a senior European Union official justified the initiatives by saying the Europeans “regret it, but need to look at the wider picture.”
When the European Union decided in 2015 to recommend labeling Israeli products from Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem, the E.U. ambassador to Israel at the time said the move was “just a technical matter.” Two days ago, the current E.U. ambassador to Israel said the European Court of Justice’s ruling reflects “parts of the E.U.’s consumer policy.”
We must ask: Are assisting and funding boycott campaigns against Israel, harming Palestinian employment, discriminating on the basis of nationality and seeking to return the Golan Heights to terrorist groups in control of what was once Syria also technical matters and part of the E.U.’s “consumer policy”?
Itai Reuveni is the director of communications at NGO Monitor.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.