The Dutch government has advised business owners to refrain from labeling products from the Golan Heights, the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem as made in Israel.
In a circular written by the Dutch Foreign Ministry and published on Wednesday on the website of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, stores are advised — but not required — to replace “Made in Israel” labels with a label reading “Product from Israeli settlement [West Bank/Golan Height/East Jerusalem].”
This applies to products that require a label, such as fresh vegetables, fruit, wine, honey, olive oil, fish, beef, poultry, eggs and cosmetics products, the notice said. The recommendation is in line with guidelines published in 2012 after a meeting by EU foreign ministers that stated that “the European Union and its members are obligated to fully and effectively implement existing EU legislation and agreements with Israel regarding products from the settlements.”
The notice also said that labeling products from areas beyond the Green Line (the West Bank) as made in Israel would be “misleading,” as international law does not recognize those areas as being part of Israel.
The governments of Ireland, Denmark and the UK have also stated their support for labeling settlements products.
Israel annexed eastern Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, both areas captured in the 1967 Six-Day War, and does not consider those areas settlements. The final status of the West Bank, also captured during the ’67 war, has yet to be determined.
“If the move singles out Israel, it is a case of blatant discrimination,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in response to the decision. “If the Europeans claim that labeling settlement-made goods is meant only to inform consumers that they are manufactured in a disputed region, they should mark products from all other disputed areas in Europe and across the world.”
“Manufacturing in Judea and Samaria maintains the livelihood of nearly 10 percent of the Palestinian population. Labeling products and harming the economic coexistence in the region will lead to the firing of Palestinians too,” read a statement by the umbrella organization representing the Jewish municipalities in the West Bank. “The Dutch government would be better advised to encourage consumption of products from these businesses, which embody a bridge to sane coexistence in the turbulent Middle East.”
“It is strange that Holland hasn’t thought it right to fully compensate Jews for the land stolen from them in the 1940s, but finds it right to label Jewish products,” said Interior Minister Eli Yishai.
“Settlement products, like the products from within the Green Line, are proudly blue and white. The state of Israel will stand united against any attempt to boycott its products.”
Last week, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called — in a letter to the foreign ministries of the 27 member states — for the full implementation of existing EU legislation according to which products from West Bank settlements and the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem do not receive the same treatment as products from areas the EU recognizes as sovereign Israeli territory.
To date, the existing EU legislation — designed to express the union’s frustration over Israel’s settlement policies and the stalemate in the peace process — has not been implemented. Ashton’s letter marked a significant push within the EU to label settlement products as such.
“The EU and its member states have a clear position on settlement activities in the occupied territories. Closely linked to this is the question of products imported into the EU originating beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders and their correct labeling on the EU market,” Ashton wrote in the letter.
Some EU member states have already introduced voluntary national guidelines on the labeling of such products and others are currently planning to do so, Ashton wrote. “An increasing number of member states” have been calling to formulate and implement EU guidelines “in a coherent manner,” she added.
The EU’s ambassador in Israel, Andrew Standley, told The Times of Israel last month that the imposition of sanctions against Israel required a unanimous decision of the 27 member states and was therefore unlikely. “The EU is opposed to boycotts. This is not the way we operate in terms of our international relations,” he said.
Raphael Ahren contributed to this report.