Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor on Saturday slammed a recent decision by South Africa’s trade and industry minister to issue a directive forcing importers to remove “Made in Israel” tags from products originating in West Bank settlements, calling it an “essentially racist decision.”
Denmark, meanwhile, is reported to be poised to follow Pretoria’s lead.
The Foreign Ministry was said Saturday to be preparing to summon the South African ambassador for clarification of the issue.
“This isn’t a case of political opposition to the settlements, but rather of singling out a country by special labeling, according to nationalist-political criteria,” said Palmor.
“It is shocking to think that South Africa of all countries is showing such obtuseness and treading down the slippery slope towards racism,” added Palmor.
Israel’s embassy in South Africa said Friday it was concerned by the news and was clarifying the matter.
Several Israeli politicians have also responded to the move. Education Committee Chairman MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beytenu) called the decision “outrageous” and said that “while the entire world is fighting racism, it is sad to see that South Africa has failed to join this battle and has taken a negative example of the Apartheid that existed there for so long.”
Likud MK Danny Danon said that “extremist Palestinian incitement continues in full force” and called for a downgrading of South Africa’s diplomatic status in order to send the message to the world that “Judea and Samaria are an inseparable part of the Land of Israel.”
By contrast, Meretz party head Zahava Galon said the South African move proved that the rest of the world does distinguish “between Israel, the occupied territories and the settlements.” Galon added that the Israeli government is the only one in the world that fails to make this distinction, and is therefore responsible for its own delegitimization in the eyes of the world.”
“I also refuse to buy products made in the settlements,” Galon said, “and I also introduced a bill that would require the labeling [of such products].”
Writing in a South African government notice last week, Minister Rob Davies said he would “require traders in SA not to incorrectly label products that originate from occupied Palestinian territory as products of Israel.”
“Consumers in SA should not be misled into believing products originating from occupied territories are products originating from Israel,” Davies said in his notice. ”The burden of proving where the products originate will lie with the traders.”
The move comes after Davies came under fire last month for referring a request on the matter to Consumer Commissioner Mamodupi Mohlala instead of dealing with it himself.
Pro-Palestinian group Shuhada Street, which had made the original request, threatened to take Davies to court to explain his actions.
The move is likely to negatively impact Israeli companies and importers operating in South Africa, financial newspaper Business Day reported.
The paper quoted local Zionist federation spokesman Ben Swartz saying the issue was “very concerning both to the Jewish community and many other interested parties.”
According to Haaretz, Denmark is likely soon to follow South Africa’s lead in legislation requiring separate labeling for products from the West bank. Danish Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal was quoted in the newspaper Politiken as saying that such a step would “clearly show consumers that the products are produced under conditions that not only the Danish government, but also European governments, do not approve of.”
Pro-Palestinian groups in other countries have pushed for similar legislation.
Asher Zeiger contributed to this report