Dutch supermarkets ban settlement products

Aldi and Hoogvliet grocery chains keen to sidestep items their customers might find controversial

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Workers at a cherry factory in a West Bank settlement. May 25, 2009. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Workers at a cherry factory in a West Bank settlement. May 25, 2009. (photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Two of the largest supermarket chains in the Netherlands have removed from their shelves all products manufactured in Israeli settlements and another asked its suppliers to verify the origin of items marked “Made in Israel.”

Both the Aldi and Hoogvliet retail giants said that they would no longer sell products made in settlements, the Dutch daily Trouw newspaper reported on Monday.

A spokesman for the Aldi chain explained that the company was not interested in its products “being part of public discourse in any way.”

The announcement came after the European Union last week issued new directives prohibiting funding or grants to any Israeli entities located in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, or the Golan Heights.

A third chain, Jumbo, already claims that it does not stock products from settlements. The company has asked its suppliers to confirm that products from Israel do not come from what it termed “occupied territory.” According to Trouw, Jumbo made the move in response to the renewed public debate about the settlements.

A Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman decried the boycott against settlements as hypocritical and discriminatory, noting that there was no similar ban on entities operating from other disputed areas in Europe.

“It does more harm than good,” the spokesman said.

The report said that retailers in Holland have struggled with the question of how to deal with settlement products, wondering whether to suffice with labeling them or instead to ban them altogether under the reasoning that products manufactured in illegal settlements are illegal too. The European Union sees the Israeli settlements on land captured during the 1967 Six Day War as illegal under international law, leading to the new directives against funding.

While Aldi, Jumbo, and Hoogvliet have taken a lead in banning the products other supermarkets are still hesitating, Trouw said. The Albert Heijn chain is reportedly waiting for a ruling from the association for supermarkets, the Central Food Retail. However, the association is itself waiting to hear the opinion of Economic Affairs Minister Henk Kamp and Foreign Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans.

In March, the Dutch Economic Affairs Ministry published recommendations on its website advising stores to replace “Made in Israel” labels with a label reading “Product from Israeli settlement [West Bank/Golan Height/East Jerusalem].” The directive was aimed at fruit, vegetables, wine, olive oil, fish and cosmetics, but was removed from the website shortly after being published.

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