bans Israel label on goods from West Bank
By Valerie Elliott, Consumer Editor
The Times (London)
10 July 2002
SUPERMARKETS must no longer use produce of Israel labels
on vegetables, fruit, flowers, wine and fruit juice grown and packed
in the occupied territories of Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan
The instruction from the Government has angered Israeli diplomats
and some businessmen, who believe that the decision is connected
to an aggressive campaign for a boycott of Israeli goods.
The Israeli Embassys official response is that it is still
studying the likely impact of the change, though privately
representatives say they are shocked by the move. It is the first
time the Government has issued instructions that clearly differentiate
between Israel and the occupied territories.
One senior Israeli Embassy source yesterday accused ministers of
succumbing to pressure from campaigners with an obvious anti-Israeli
He added that the Government may have unwittingly bowed to
groups that have nothing to do with consumer interests but rather
are seeking to score political points against Israel.
The change came in a letter from David Holliday, chief horticulture
marketing inspector at the Department for Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (Defra) to the British Retail Consortium and supermarket
chains. The matter is to be taken up with Margaret Beckett, the
Rural Affairs Secretary, by Lord Young of Graffham, a former Trade
and Industry Secretary, and now chairman of the British-Israel Chamber
Mr Holliday wrote: Advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office and the Department of Trade and Industry is that produce
from these occupied territories ought not to be labelled as Produce
of Israel, because these territories are not recognised as
part of Israel. It has been agreed that in this particular case
and in order to give as much information as possible these products
should be labelled with their region of production rather than a
country of origin that may be misleading.
A spokesman denied that the instruction was politically motivated,
and said that the action had been taken after inquiries by retailers
asked by shoppers about the origin of the produce. He said that
the instruction was agreed by the European Union and applied to
all member states.
It means that produce from Israeli-owned co-operatives and farms
in the occupied territories will not qualify for preferential rates
of import duties at ports. Exporters will have to pick up the bill
or pass on the cost to customers in Britain.
The Israeli Embassy is unaware of any other EU state adopting such
Lord Young said: This has come like a bolt from the blue.
We believe it is discriminatory and unfair. I cannot believe the
Foreign Office and DTI are behind this. This is something that has
come out of Defra, not from anyone high up, and does not represent
the views of the Government.
Betty Hunter, of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which has been
campaigning for a boycott of Israeli goods, said: We are extremely
pleased. A lot of produce from illegal Israeli settlements is being
mixed with goods from Israel and they have been using the label
to get advantageous tax concessions from the EU.