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France published an official notification Thursday urging businesses to use labels to identify goods produced in the Israeli settlements, prompting a swift condemnation from Israel.
It was not immediately clear whether the notice published in the French Official Journal is binding for retailers or a recommendation. A press official with the trade ministry said late Thursday she was not aware of the notification and couldn’t immediately say whether it was mandatory or advisory.
In Nov. 2015, the European Union recommended that its member states put special labels on exports from the West Bank, but said the technical guidelines on the indication of origin were “in no way a boycott.”
Israel condemned France’s decision, saying it lends support to an international movement calling for a boycott of Israeli goods over its policies toward the Palestinians. The EU rejects such comparisons. It says the measure is meant to educate consumers about the origins of the products they are buying, and has rejected the international boycott movement against Israel.
The French notice says that “under international law the Golan Heights and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are not part of Israel.” So it states that goods from those regions must be marked as such and not as originating from Israel.
The notification adds that labelling goods produced in the Israeli settlements as “made in the West Bank” or “made in the Golan Heights” is insufficient because they could “mislead” consumers. It says it’s necessary to add, between parenthesis, the words “Israeli settlement” or similar wording. As a result, it urges labels such as “made in the West Bank (Israeli settlement)” or “made in the Golan Heights (Israeli settlement).”
Late Thursday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said “it’s unfortunate that France, which has a law against boycotts, is advancing steps like these which can be interpreted as giving a tail wind to radical actors and the boycott movement against Israel.”
Israel sees the EU push for settlement product labelling as inspired by the so-called BDS movement calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel in what it says is a nonviolent struggle against Israeli occupation.
The BDS movement has made gains in recent years. U.S. and British academic unions have endorsed boycotts, student governments at universities have made divestment proposals, and a number of churches have sold off shares in businesses seen as profiting from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. The BDS movement also claims responsibility for pressuring some large companies to stop or modify operations in Israel.
Israel says the movement’s true goal is to destroy the country. BDS pushes, among other things, not only for an end to Israel’s occupation of lands captured in the 1967 Mideast war, but also for a return of Palestinian refugees to family properties lost in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation. Israel says the Palestinian “right of return” would lead to a massive influx of refugees and mean the end of the country as a Jewish state.
The Palestinians want the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip – territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war – for their future state. Israel has annexed the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967, and east Jerusalem and it withdrew its troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005. It maintains a military occupation in the West Bank where nearly 400,000 Jewish settlers live. Another 200,000 or so live in east Jerusalem, the Palestinians’ hoped-for capital. The E.U., U.S. and much of the international community view settlements as illegal or illegitimate and an obstacle to peace.