Israeli politicians from right and left leveled swift and strongly worded criticism against the European Union Wednesday over its decision to impose labeling guidelines on Israeli products produced over the Green Line, with the government likening the move to a boycott and MKs saying it amounted to anti-Semitism.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry responded to the announcement of the move by summoning EU Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Anderson for a dressing down, Channel 10 reported.
The Foreign Ministry warned the plan 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 which is 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.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, who traveled to Europe last month in an attempt to prevent the move, didn’t mince words.
“Labeling products is a boycott,” she declared. “Europe has today taken a discriminatory and grave step.”
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon called the move “a shameful step giving a prize to terrorism and the people behind it.”
“Even if this or that European has a dispute with the State of Israel regarding the status of the territory and its future, the decision to label products is pure hypocrisy,” he said.
The EU defended the move, saying it was technical rather than political and meant to streamline policies across member states.
“The Commission is providing guidance to the EU member states and economic operators to ensure the uniform application of the rules on indication of origins of Israeli settlement produce,” European Commission vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis said.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog from the dovish Zionist Union camp called the decision “dangerous and detrimental” and said it would damage peace efforts.
He compared the move to the UN’s decision to equate Zionism with racism 40 years ago and said the words of his father — then-ambassador to the UN Chaim Herzog, who went on to become Israel’s president — still rang true.
“This decision is based on hatred, falsehood and ignorance, devoid of any moral value. For us, the Jewish people, this is no more than a piece of paper, and we must treat it as such,” he said, quoting his father.
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.
Shaked told Israel Radio the government plans to fight the decision.
“We will study the decision once the full details are released and decide on the appropriate response,” she said. “We will consider legal steps if necessary.”
Former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman charged Europe with anti-Semitism, comparing Wednesday’s decision with the Continent’s darkest days.
“Every time that Europe labels Jews, its a sign that anti-Semitism, insanity and hypocrisy has taken over and that they are leading the entire free world to a catastrophe,” he said.
When the bill was first proposed in April, then-foreign minister Lieberman expressed strong condemnation, suggesting that European nations might as well label products “with a yellow star” such as the one used by Nazi Germany to identify Jews before and during the Holocaust.
Yesh Atid chair Yair Lapid joined voices calling the decision anti-Semitic and said it would “strengthen terror against Israel,” in a letter to European Union countries’ ambassadors in Israel.
“This move, proposed by the BDS [boycott, sanctions and divestment] movement, may ultimately lead to a total economic boycott of the State of Israel. This is a decision that will only harden Palestinian positions and pushes off the chance for a political solution.”
Writing on Twitter, Lapid said the decision discriminates against Israel while “Jews are being stabbed on the streets.”
Jews are being stabbed in the streets & the EU has given in to BDS. This decision discriminates against Israel & encourages terrorism.
— יאיר לפיד (@LapidAtid) November 11, 2015
The only Knesset member to immediately praise the decision was MK Issawi Frej of Meretz. He said the decision appropriately differentiated between Israel and the settlements.
“It is the right decision to label the products from the settlements. It will allow European consumers who do not want to boycott Israel to buy Israeli products without fear of financing the settlements and the occupation,” he said.
The Peace Now NGO expressed similar sentiments, calling the decision a “legitimate” move.
“Labeling products is not a boycott against Israel or BDS, but a legitimate move intended to separate products of the settlements from blue and white products,” the NGO says.
AFP contributed to this report