French government suspends demand for West Bank product labeling

Authorities backtrack over claims of discrimination, two years after adopting measure vocally protested by Israel; Amnesty International criticizes Paris over move

Barrels at an Israeli winery in the West Bank settlement of Psagot, February 11, 2014. (AP/ Dan Balilty/File)
Barrels at an Israeli winery in the West Bank settlement of Psagot, February 11, 2014. (AP/ Dan Balilty/File)

French authorities have reportedly suspended their insistence on special labeling for West Bank products following a lawsuit alleging that the practice is discriminatory.

The France office of the NGO Amnesty International complained about the suspension in a statement Wednesday.

“Instead of complying with the request to end imports [from the West Bank], the government has chosen to roll back and suspend the demand for labeling,” the human rights group wrote.

Israel’s public broadcaster Kan reported on Tuesday about the suspension of the measure, which was adopted in 2016.

That year, the French Economy Ministry’s General Directorate for Competition, Consumption and Fraud Prevention published an advisory circular requiring retailers to use the word “colonies,” French for “settlements,” to specify goods originating in Israeli settlements in the Golan Heights, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967.

Israel considers the Golan and all of Jerusalem an integral part of its territory, as well as West Bank disputed land where most Jewish settlements are legal municipal entities. But much of the world, including the European Union and its member states, views the land as occupied and the settlements as illegal.

In 2015, the European Commission adopted binding regulations requiring such labeling. However, the commission has no recourse against countries that do not apply the regulations and no lawsuit has been brought to date against a vendor who declined to apply them. France’s major supermarket chains apply no special labeling for settlement goods. Israel has vocally protested the passing of these regulations.

Earlier this year The Lawfare Project, a pro-Israel think tank, initiated a legal action challenging the labeling requirements on behalf of Psagot Winery LTD, an Israeli vineyard whose European distributors are subject to the labeling rules.

In France, the legal action in May prompted the Council of State, which is the government’s legal adviser, to ask the European Court of Justice for its opinion on the legal status of labeling.

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