The EU’s Choice of Labels: “Made in West Bank” and “Anti-Semite”

The European Union has taken upon itself to challenge the labelling of products that are made east of the Green Line as “Made in Israel”.   They should consider international norms and the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians before doing so.

“Made in USA” in US Territories

It is common practice for countries that have territories that are not incorporated into the country, to label products produced in those locations as being made in the country. For example, products produced in American Samoa (say for Sears Department stores) sport the “Made in USA” label even though the products were produced thousands of miles away from US shores on an island that was never part of the country by non-US citizens.

“Made in Israel” in Israeli Territory

Similarly, Israeli law allows products made in Israeli territory to carry the “Made in Israel” label.  The differences between the US and Israeli polices are that the products made in Area C of the West Bank are made by Israeli citizens, and many countries consider the Israeli territory to not be Israeli at all.

The claim that Area C is not Israeli is peculiar, since the land is specifically designated as Israeli territory by the 1993 Oslo II Accords that were agreed to and signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority. That agreement laid out that Israel continues to have both civil and security control of Area C.  The final determination of control of the area will be decided in a final status agreement, which has not yet occurred. Until that time, the area remains Israeli territory (as opposed to Area A which is Palestinian Authority Territory).

Reasons behind Labelling

The labeling of products is meant to do two main things: inform a consumer about the origins of a product; and distinguish items as they relate to taxes and tariffs.

In the United States, labelling a product from American Samoa as being “Made in USA” may be misleading to consumers about the true origin of the item, but it is consistent as it relates to tariffs. The same holds true for Israeli policy towards items from Area C.

From the EU’s perspective, not only does it seek to inform European consumers about the precise location of origin of foreign products, it wishes to uniquely harm Israel as it disputes the Israeli claim over Area C (despite the Israel-Palestinian Authority agreement noted above). It is therefore requiring a change of labels from “Made in Israel” to “Made in the West Bank” for items produced east of the Green Line.

Date-box-label-1-e1375886179109-350x379
Dates in London, England labelled “West Bank”
(photo: Friends of Al Aqsa London)

Israel has attempted to stop the European Union from embarking on this policy. It fears that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement will hurt its economy by not only not purchasing Israeli products, but by trying to ban the items from store shelves. Some argue that providing a distinct label for products from the settlements would actually help Israel as there are people in Europe who only seek to avoid products from the settlements, but would gladly purchase items from within Israel’s 1949 Armistice Lines. The reality is that many organizations that are promoting the EU policy for distinct labelling of Israel vs. “West Bank” seek to boycott and harm all of Israel. For example, Friends of Al Aqsa (FOA) prints advertisements that call for boycotting all products from anywhere in Israel and its territory.

label Israel
Ad by FOA calling for Boycott of products from “Israel, West Bank (Settlements) & Jordan Valley”

As it relates to taxes and tariffs, the European Union established a framework of trading with Israel in the EU-Israel Association Agreement (1995) which took effect in June 2000. The language in the agreement repeatedly refers to “countries and territories” which can be interpreted broadly to include territories of both European member states as well as Israel.

EU Action Only for Israel

The European Union distinction of strictly labelling products to exclude Israeli territory is unique for Israel.  The EU makes no distinctions for countries where it does not challenge the legal authority (like the US with American Samoa), AND for other countries where it disagrees with the claim on disputed land. Some examples:

  • In 1974, Turkey illegally seized one-third of the Cyprus and declared the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, an entity which is not recognized by any country in the world other than Turkey. Yet the EU avoids heated discussions with Turkey over the labelling of products from TRNC such as its famous halloumi cheese.
  • When it comes to China, the EU trips over itself to facilitate trade. As stated on the EU website on trade: “China is the EU’s biggest source of imports by far, and has also become one of the EU’s fastest growing export markets. The EU has also become China’s biggest source of imports. China and Europe now trade well over €1 billion a day.” Trade includes items made in Tibet, and the EU has not addressed any specific “Made in Tibet” labelling. This is despite China occupying Tibet and transferring 7.5 million Chinese into the territory, counter to the Fourth Geneva Convention.
  • India has a long running dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir. The EU stated that it is “committed to further increase their trade flows in both goods and services as well as bilateral investment and access to public procurement through the Free Trade Agreement negotiations that were launched in 2007.” No specific labelling program has been discussed for items coming from Kashmir.

The European Union has shown a unique fascination with Israeli territories.

  • It makes no labelling distinction for other disputed territories such as Tibet and Kashmir to assist consumers
  • It does not dispute the tariff system that countries use for its territories like the United States with American Samoa
  • The EU ignores the Oslo II agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which specifically segment the Israeli settlements in Area C as Israeli territory
  • It ignores its own trade agreement with Israel

And the EU does all of these things knowing full well of the intention of the BDS movement to leverage their actions to harm the Jewish State.

Double standards and unique critical attention for Israel is considered anti-Semitism, even by US President Barack Obama who said “[if] you acknowledge the active presence of anti-Semitism—that it’s not just something in the past, but it is current—if you acknowledge that there are people and nations that, if convenient, would do the Jewish people harm because of a warped ideology… you should be able to align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not held to a double standard in international fora, you should align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not isolated.”

It would appear that many Europeans would choose to wear the “Anti-Semitism” label with honor.


Related FirstOneThrough articles:

Names and Narrative: Palestinian Territories/ Israeli Territories

Palestinians agree that Israel rules all of Jerusalem, but the World Treats the City as Divided

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7 thoughts on “The EU’s Choice of Labels: “Made in West Bank” and “Anti-Semite”

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