stung by imports ruling
Suzanne Goldenberg in Jerusalem
July 6, 2002
British supermarkets have been told that they must clearly identify
produce on sale from the illegal Jewish settlements of the West
Bank and Gaza.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said yesterday
that it told importers last week that cherry tomatoes, baby potatoes,
avocados, fruit juice and flowers grown in the illegal outposts
could no longer be sold under the "Produce of Israel"
"Supermarket customers over here raised questions about produce
with supermarkets, who raised it with us," it said.
"Produce from these occupied territories ought not to be labelled
'Produce of Israel', because the territories are not recognised
as part of Israel."
The directive is largely symbolic. The value of exports from the
settlements to the whole of the EU amounts to €20m (£13m)
Nevertheless, the decision has dismayed the Israeli authorities,
because it comes at a time of increasing sensitivity about Israel's
isolation in the international community.
As far as Israel is concerned, the Palestinian uprising is a war
of words as much as of weapons, and there is deep unease about the
boycott of Israeli academics and goods from Israel proper by Palestinian
solidarity campaigners in Britain.
The foreign ministry said Israel was still considering its response.
But the newspaper Ha'aretz reported that embassy officials were
stunned by the directive and had complained that it was unfair and
Israeli peace activists, who have urged their fellow citizens to
boycott settlement produce, welcomed the directive.
"This is a very important step because this, in fact, is the
crux of the issue," said Adam Keller, of Gush Shalom.
"The issue is very simple: are these territories inside Israel,
or are they not part of Israel?"
The EU has stiffened its rules of origin, which means goods from
the settlements will be subject to customs duty, unlike exports
from Israel proper.
of "Produce of Israel" label for West Bank, Gaza &
Golan Heights produce
July 5, 2002
The British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
(DEFRA) has ordered an end to Israeli goods produced in the West
Bank, Gaza Strip and Golan Heights being labeled "Produce of
A letter sent out last week by David Holliday, chief horticultural
marketing inspector to "all interested parties," said
"advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department
of Trade and Industry is that produce from these occupied territories
ought not be labeled as `Produce of Israel,' because these territories
are not recognized as part of Israel."
As a solution, Holliday's letter says that "it has been agreed
that in this particular case, and in order to give as much information
as possible, these products should be labeled with their region
of production, rather than a country of origin that may be misleading."
This is the first time the British government has issued instructions
that clearly differentiate between Israel and the occupied territories,
after deflecting pressure from pro-Palestinian organizations and
MPs over the last year.
The letter has stunned the Israeli Embassy here. Diplomatic and
financial sources here expressed their disappointment and amazement
at the instructions, calling it the most prominent example of discrimination
against Israel, since, to the best of their knowledge, similar orders
have not been issued concerning products from other disputed areas,
such as Cyprus or Kashmir.
The sources believe that labeling the product with the region of
produce rather than country of origin will confuse the consumer
- the exact opposite of what the order hopes to achieve.
A spokesman for DEFRA said in response that the step was "not
a form of action" against Israel, and was not done out of political
motivations, nor did it herald a shift in British policy.
Israel's sales of food products total around 100 million pounds
sterling annually. The majority of goods produced in the territories
comes from the Gush Katif bloc in the Gaza Strip and the Jordan
Valley, but is a marginal amount of Israeli exports. The DEFRA decision
is not expected to have any economic implications for Israel, but
is mainly a symbolic and diplomatic decision.
According to figures obtained by Ha'aretz, there was actually an
increase in the balance of trade between Israel and Britain in the
months January-April 2002, despite the pessimistic forecasts in
Israel, and a campaign to boycott Israeli goods here.
Israel is now Britain's number one trade partner in the Middle
East, after falling to third place last year, behind Saudi Arabia
and the United Arab Emirates.