The European Court of Justice issued a controversial ruling on Nov. 12, 2019, declaring that:
“Foodstuffs originating in the territories occupied by the State of Israel must bear the indication of their territory of origin, accompanied, where those foodstuffs come from an Israeli settlement within that territory, by the indication of that provenance.”
Any reaction to the European Union policy of labeling products manufactured in Israeli settlements should consider the following points:
The E.U.-directed policy requiring member states to label products made in Israeli settlements is intended to harm Israel and Israel only, as a distinct political action and as a means of pressuring Israel politically.
This measure has no substantive connection with whether settlement products meet E.U. and individual state sanitary, health, hygienic, production, packaging, cleanliness, or other quality standards. It is a purely selective, discriminatory and political imposition.
The E.U. labeling policy is based on a unilateral E.U. premise that Israel’s settlements are contrary to international law. This premise runs counter to other relevant legal opinions as to the legitimacy of Israel’s settlement policy in accordance with the accepted international norms regarding the administration of territory. Additionally, and more importantly, the issue of Israel’s settlements is an agreed negotiating issue between Israel and the PLO, pursuant to the Oslo Accords. Thus, the E.U. labeling directive is tantamount to interference in, and prejudgment of an agreed negotiating issue between Israel and the Palestinians.
The E.U. labeling requirement is an overt, political measure strengthening the already existing links between the E.U. and the predominantly European Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. It represents full identification of the E.U. and its member states with the aims of the BDS movement to undermine Israel and to weaken the relations between European countries and Israel.
The selective and discriminatory E.U. labeling policy directed solely against Israel blatantly ignores the numerous situations in the world where states administering territories have transferred hundreds and thousands of their own citizens into the territories they are administering, such as Turkey in Northern Cyprus, Morocco in the occupied territory of Western Sahara, Russia in occupied Ukrainian territory, and the like. This is indicative of an acute double standard in E.U. policies, raising pertinent questions regarding the real motivation behind such policy.
This selective and discriminatory E.U. labeling policy is both immoral and hypocritical, driven by manipulation and political pressure by those within the E.U. who have consistently acted to push member states to interfere in the Middle East dispute and take biased and unilateral positions intended to undermine the integrity of the peace negotiations in a manner directed at harming Israel.
The E.U. labeling policy, in effect, cancels any bona fide European pretension to participate in the peace negotiation process between Israel and the Palestinians. Cooperating with the E.U. labeling directive means that the E.U. has taken sides and has prejudged one of the central negotiating issues—that of settlements—which is still an open issue on the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating table.
E.U. member states that support and implement the discriminatory labeling policy will, in fact, by taking such a biased and discriminatory position, remove themselves from any cycle of involvement in the peace process, and will, in effect, be sabotaging the process and damaging the integrity and bona fides of the negotiations.
The E.U. policy undermines the E.U. status as one of the signatories to the Oslo Accords, together with the leaders of the United States, Russia, Norway, Egypt and Jordan; the United Nations also endorsed the Accords. It also undermines the status of the E.U. as a member of the Middle East Quartet, together with the U.N., Russia and the United States.
Self-respecting European states that genuinely believe in the importance of advancing the Israel-Palestinian peace negotiation process cannot identify with or implement such a discriminatory measure intended to harm Israel. Even-handed and fair-minded states will not allow themselves to be manipulated by politically-driven elements within the E.U. seeking to weaken Israel, the integrity of the peace process, and their own interests.
Alan Baker is director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.
This article was first published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.