Court says European Union states must label Israeli settlement products

Vine-grower Gershon Ferency with freshly harvested Chardonnay grapes at his winery in the Jewish-only settlement of Bat Ayin south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank

Vine-grower Gershon Ferency with freshly harvested Chardonnay grapes at his winery in the Jewish-only settlement of Bat Ayin south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank

Currently, all products of Israeli make and exported to Europe, carry the label of "made in Israel".

The halting of funds to the UNRWA, recognising occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, relocating United States embassy from Tel Aviv to occupied Jerusalem, refusing to restrain Israel from illegally expanding settlements are just a few among such moves hostile to Palestinians.

The latest ECJ ruling effectively backs those European Union guidelines issued in 2015. At the time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decried the move as "antisemitic", comparing the guidelines to the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses.

The ruling comes after France's top tribunal asked for clarification on how to label goods from the occupied West Bank, Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

In considering whether to make the labelling mandatory, "the court first of all underlined that the settlements established in some of the territories occupied by the state of Israel are characterised by the fact that they give concrete expression to a policy of population transfer conducted by that state outside its territory, in violation of the rules of general global humanitarian law".

This was challenged by the Organisation Juive Europeene (European Jewish Organisation) and Psagot, a company that runs vineyards in occupied territories.

The head of the local settler council, Israel Ganz, said the ruling is part of "a double standard that discriminates against Jews living and working in their homeland of thousands of years".

The European Court of Justice said that 'foodstuffs originating in the territories occupied by the State of Israel must bear the indication of their territory of origin'.

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The Luxembourg-based court said when products come from an Israeli settlement, their labeling must provide an "indication of that provenance" so that consumers can make "informed choices" when they shop. "The EU does not support any form of boycott or sanctions against Israel".

Elsewhere, the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Saeb Erekat, welcomed the ruling but urged the European Union to go further.

According to the press release accompanying the judgment, "The Court observed that the country of origin or the place of provenance of a foodstuff must, in accordance with Articles 9 and 26 of Regulation No 1169/2011, be indicated where failure to indicate this might mislead consumers into believing that that foodstuff has a country of origin or a place of provenance different from its true country of origin or place of provenance".

In a tacit nod to the boycott movement, judges on Tuesday concluded "such considerations could influence consumers' purchasing decisions".

The ECJ underlined that settlements 'give concrete expression to a policy of population transfer conducted by that State outside its territory, in violation of the rules of general worldwide humanitarian law'.

Consumers might be misled if it was not made clear that products originated in these settlements, the court added.

We now urge EU member states to apply this ruling effectively and, as guardian of the treaties, the European Commission has now a pressing duty to monitor carefully that member states do indeed abide by this decision.

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