Opinion

The EU’s skewed definition of origin labeling

Why would “Judea and Samaria” on a label not suffice? After all, those names are the historical terms. “Judea” is in the New Testament, so it’s not just a Jewish thing.

Minister of Strategic Affairs pours wine from Judea and Samaria at Israel Kongress in Frankfurt, together with the head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council David Elhayani and Palestinian human-rights activist Baseem Eid. Credit: Jordan Valley Regional Council.
Minister of Strategic Affairs pours wine from Judea and Samaria at Israel Kongress in Frankfurt, together with the head of the Jordan Valley Regional Council David Elhayani and Palestinian human-rights activist Baseem Eid. Credit: Jordan Valley Regional Council.
Yisrael Medad
Yisrael Medad is a researcher, analyst and opinion commentator on political, cultural and media issues.

The high-profile court case initiated by Winnipeg-based radio-web broadcaster and science educator David Kattenburg has brought attention again to the question of the European Union’s instructions, adopted by other countries, to “nicely” boycott Jewish agricultural produce, in addition to other foodstuffs and manufactured items originating in Judea and Samaria.

That case was presented as if it was simply all about putting a label on a wine bottle so that people will know the origin of the wine. But, of course, it’s more than that.

The E.U. guidelines on wine are in two languages. For wine produced in E.U. countries, they insist only on a “region” as the geographical identification unit:

“For most products, at least one of the stages of distillation or preparation takes place in the region. However, raw products do not need to come from the region.”

If so, then you might naturally ask, why would “Judea and Samaria” on a label not suffice? After all, those names are the historical terms. They have appeared on maps of the “Holy Land” for centuries. “Judea” is in the New Testament, so it’s not just a Jewish thing. In the U.N. partition plan of 1947, in the section delineating the borders, “Judea” and “Samaria” appear. And the West Bank itself originated only in April 1950.

Israel, one presumes, is unique.

The official E.U. position as regards Israel, as clarified for me from an official spokesperson who I contacted, is as so:

“The indication of origin of products from territories occupied by Israel is a technical consumer protection issue, based on the EU recognising Israel within its 1967 border. Goods of origin from these territories, as other goods for import into the EU, need to be correctly labelled so that consumers in the EU have full clarity where the products come from. The EU does not support any elements of the so-called ‘BDS’ approach (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel, and hence also not the boycott of products from Israeli settlements.”

Very simple. Then it’s a matter of “recognition.” An Interpretative Notice of the European Commission was issued in November 2015 and provides some clarity on the existing E.U. rules. The main purpose is to be helpful to a consumer in that an improper labeling would “mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product.” It demands that the mandatory indication of origin be “correct and not misleading.” As they note:

“Made in Israel” used for the products coming from Israeli settlements would mislead the consumer and therefore is inconsistent with existing E.U. legislation.

And further,

“ ‘Product from Israel’ should not be used for products from the Golan Heights or the West Bank (including East Jerusalem). For products from West Bank or the Golan Heights that originate from settlements, an indication limited to ‘product from Golan Heights’ or ‘product from West Bank’ would not be acceptable. In such cases the expression ‘Israeli settlement’ or equivalent needs to be added.

The E.U. asserts that the geographical area of origin must be “internationally recognised,” and for the E.U., Israel was and continues to be internationally recognized as defined by its “pre-1967 borders,” so:

“In line with UNSC resolution 2334 of 2016, the EU considers Israeli settlements in occupied territories as illegal under international law.”

Odd. By this time, I would think that “Judea and Samaria” are quite recognizable as the territories that are “disputed,” “occupied” or whatever by Israel.

Nevertheless, let’s deconstruct this.

In the first instance, we need be clear there were no proper “borders” prior to 1967. They were, as defined in an internationally recognized Armistice Agreement, “end of fighting lines” specifically categorized in Article II of the Agreement that, once demarcated, it is stipulated that

no military or political advantage should be gained

“Political advantage” meaning a diplomatically recognized border. No changes until a future peace treaty, which did happen with Israel in 1994.

Furthermore, as appears there,

no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question

In other words, Israel and Jordan could both put forward territorial claims beyond those lines or, for that matter, behind them.  There’s a territorial dispute. Indeed,

The basic purpose of the Armistice Demarcation Lines is to delineate the lines beyond which the armed forces of the respective Parties shall not move

Nothing more. Nothing political, but rather a simple marking at which point the military forces had stopped operations. Moreover, those lines were temporary in the extreme, with no permanency as per Article XII 3, which reads:

The Parties to this Agreement may, by mutual consent, revise this Agreement or any of its provisions, or may suspend its application, other than articles I and III, at any time.

Those lines had no real legitimacy and now for the E.U. to retroactively demand that the territory gained in the 1967 hostility should not have the same status as territory gained in the 1948 hostility (that is, by demanding, as it were, Israel go back to those lines without peace or other final status arrangements), is not only unfair and wrong but quite prejudicially discriminatory.

Jordan, invading Israel in June 1967, effectively put an end to the legitimacy of those lines. To sanctify, as it were, the “pre-1967 borders” is an act of nonsense.

Now, between you and me, everyone knows that Israel has extended its administrative rule to those regions of the Land of Israel that were under British Mandate rule until 1948, a rule quite legal and internationally recognized. That is the meaning of “belligerent occupation,” that is, as the result of military engagement. Israel, in an act of self-defense, thwarted the intentions of the invaders and assumed administration over Judea and Samaria, as well as Gaza. Judea and Samaria are the heartland of the homeland.

Those regions were geographically part of the area of “historic Palestine” that the League of Nations awarded to the Jewish people to, among other purposes:

encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency, referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews, on the land, including State lands and waste lands

From 1922 until 1967, no recognized country or state legally ruled those areas except the Mandate. Jordan was an illegal occupier. In Hebrew, the Mandate was translated as “Land of Israel.”

All this leaves us with a simple solution for the requirement of the E.U. to note the origin of the product: the Land of Israel.

Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and political commentator.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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