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COMPANY : Selfridges


Selfridges Stores  


Selfridges are carrying a range of goods produced on Israel's illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. These are labeled "Made in Israel" in contravention of EU excise and customs regulations. They include:

Achva Halva - Barkan Industrial Zone, West Bank
Ahava toiletries - Mitspe Shalem, West Bank
Beigal and Beigal pretzels - Barkan Industrial Zone, West Bank
Yarden Wines - Katzrin, Golan Heights

These settlements have been built on land expropriated from the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. These are illegal under international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.[3]

Currently their stores in central London are being picketed to hilight this breach of international law.

In association with IHRC we are currently running a letter writing campaign to pressure Selfridges to stop supporting Israel.



"The 'Made in Israel' label is not as simple as it seems"
Ha'aretz Newspaper, September 24 2000

Israel exports products manufactured in the settlements but labeled as Israeli products, thus illegally benefiting from a trade agreement with the European Union.

By Amira Hass

Any moment now, a letter from the Belgian Finance Ministry should be landing on the desk of the European Union Commission in Brussels. The commission has been aware of the contents of the dawdling letter for weeks or even months now. It is "like a hot potato," according to one commission source. Commission officials fear the moment this hot potato lands in their lap and are still pretending that it does not exist.The letter is supposed to inform the commission that according to information received by Belgian customs authorities, there is firm proof that Israel is violating its trade agreement with the EU, giving its goods preferential status in European markets.

The commission is responsible for the satisfactory implementation of agreements signed by the EU and the violations could invite a partial or complete suspension of the agreement. An official letter of this kind obligates the commission to take immediate steps to clarify the situation with Israel.

In an embarrassing turn of events over a year ago, a Belgian customs official performed a rather ordinary technical action, asking the Israeli customs authorities to send him post-verification of a certificate of origin for cosmetics products made by the Israeli Ahava company. According to the certificate of origin in his possession, Ahava's products are manufactured in the State of Israel. To the best of that anonymous clerk's knowledge, there are clear boundaries to the State of Israel and the preferential terms are granted only to products made within them. But he also received a bundle of documents and photographs that proved that the Ahava products are manufactured beyond these borders. He thus asked an Israeli colleague to re-verify the origin of the goods. The answer came a few months later: Ahava products are manufactured in the State of Israel.

The obedient clerk brought the contradiction to the attention of his superiors at the political level and the information was leaked to the Belgian Parliament. Someone submitted an oral parliamentary question on July 1 and the course of events became known to all, including Belgian non-governmental organizations and members of the European Parliament, who pressured the political ranks to act in accordance with its declared position.

The pressure, however, had begun much earlier. In early March of this year, 47 members of the European Parliament from different parties submitted an oral question to the commission with regard to the "irregular application" of the EC-Israel trade agreements.

They defined the problem in the question: "Consistent with the obligations of the member states under international law, all EC trade agreements with Israel have limited their scope of territorial applicability, on the part of Israel, to the 'territory of the State of Israel,' excluding the occupied territories, and, therefore, Israeli settlements."

This determination follows from Paragraph 83 of the trade agreement - the association agreement between Israel and the EU that was signed in 1995 and came into permanent effect on July 1, 2000; and Paragraph 49 of the Geneva Convention, to which all EU member countries are signatories. This paragraph prohibits any occupying country from transferring or exiling part of its civilian population into the area that it occupies.

This was not only the interpretation of the European MPs who submitted the question, led by veteran left-wing activist Louisa Morgantini of Italy. It is also the official interpretation of the commission, as shown by a communication drafted in May 1998: "Preferential access to Community markets for exports originating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and those from East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights contravene agreed rules of origin because under public international law, these territories do not form part of the State of Israel."

The communication also declared: "There are indications that these exports are taking place. The European Community will take steps to verify the accuracy of this information according to the procedures that have been agreed upon with Israel ... Should it be confirmed, such violations of the rules should be brought to an end."

In 1995, ratification of the trade agreement between Israel and the EU was imminent. It was formulated in parallel with the Oslo talks and was evident of European satisfaction with the policies of the Labor government and the expectation that an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was in sight.

But Mattin, a small Ramallah-based policy research and advocacy partnership, which focuses on Palestinian economics and human rights, began to nag the European Commission and a few EU member countries, reminding them about the settlements and their goods. The trade agreement was not ratified, as required, by all 15 member states: France and Belgium refused to do so. The preferential trade relations between the two parties were, therefore, grounded in an interim agreement. The association agreement was finally ratified on June 1 of this year, following the establishment of Prime Minister Ehud Barak's government and after France and Belgium had signed it.

It is no coincidence that the communication of the EU was composed and distributed in 1998, during the term of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. European governments believed Netanyahu's policies were in contradiction to the Oslo process and thus permitted themselves to carry out a series of checks and declarations to express their dissatisfaction. It is also no coincidence that in January 1998, the Dutch Ministry of Development Cooperation hired Mattin to investigate and gather evidence on the source of various Israeli products. Some observers also say that transparency issues came to the fore in the wake of the corruption cases at the top echelon of the European Commission.

Questions were asked in the European Parliament, and in September 1998, a special European delegation was sent to Israel and the Palestinian Authority to assess the trade and customs procedures between Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and members of the European Union. In its report, the delegation concluded that the rules of origin were not honored. In other words: Israel was exporting products that were not manufactured within its borders.

Beginning in early 1999, Mattin began providing findings and evidence regarding the source of various goods, all or some of which where manufactured beyond Israel's pre-1967 borders. The European customs authorities also came into possession of a list of products - released by the Gush Shalom peace movement - manufactured beyond the pre-1967 borders. Gush Shalom supported a boycott of these products.

This was apparently the stage at which the Belgian clerk displayed personal initiative. In his determination, he beat dozens of customs officials from other EU countries to the punch by at least a full year. It turns out that from June this year, the Israeli customs authorities received about 300 similar letters - primarily from England, Holland and France - requesting verification of the certificates of origin of a list of products, all of which were produced beyond the pre-1967 borders.
Give Barak a chance
Since May 1999, however, when the Barak government came into power, the nagging from within and without no longer matched the line taken by Europe's political echelon. By January 2000, the European Commission gave the following response to Morgantini's question on the examination of product origins: "At this stage, it has not been possible to determine with certitude the origin of the products concerned. We are at a very delicate stage in the peace process, which must not be endangered by positions that would result from blindly applying legal rules."

Representatives of the Foreign Ministry would gladly have signed such a statement. Victor Harel, deputy director-general of economic affairs at the Foreign Ministry, sums up what he and Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami tell their colleagues in Europe and in the commission: "For years, the European Union did not care the slightest bit about products from the settlements, in the understanding that it is a gray area, unique and special. Why the rush now, when we are at the height of negotiations with the Palestinians? At Camp David there was Palestinian recognition of a few settlement blocs. Determining the borders is an issue between us and the Palestinians, so why be so strict all of a sudden?"

It is not a matter of a ruse or falsification, Harel emphasizes: "Israel does not conceal the locations in which these products are made."

Last March, the Israeli delegation to the EU proposed setting up an informal, three-way committee, in conjunction with the Palestinians, which would discuss the question of the settlements. In exchange for Palestinian and European recognition of products from the settlements as Israeli products, Israel would recognize a separate trade agreement to be signed between the EU and the Palestinians. Such recognition is important: the Palestinians, as well as a few sources in the commission, argue that non-recognition leads to innumerable Israeli restrictions and harassments that delay the growth of independent Palestinian trade.

Harel says this is a serious overstatement.

In any event, the commission informed European Parliament members that in January 2000, the Palestinian leadership expressed willingness to participate in this tripartite committee. But the rejoicing turned out to be premature, because in March 2000, Dr. Nabil Sha'ath, Minister of Planning and Internal Cooperation in the PA, sent a correction to the commission's announcement.

"The Palestinian side will not entertain any discussion of matters concerning products from the settlements or legitimizing their importation into the EC under preferences. The Palestinian National Council and the PLO cannot and will not be party to any arrangement that would contravene the principles of international law."

Harel expresses regret over this position. He believes that all these difficulties are hindering economic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians: An Israeli investor who exports goods to Europe would hesitate to launch a joint venture with a Palestinian; Israeli factory owners beyond the pre-1967 borders could decide, in response, to dismiss their Palestinian employees.

The trade agreements grant a ten-month grace period to respond to requests for post-verification of certificate of origin. Harel does not hide Israel's intention of taking full advantage of this period in the hope and assumption that a permanent agreement with the Palestinians will be signed by then. According to a European source, the EU political echelon is counting on the ten-months period just as much as Harel.

Nevertheless, one diligent Belgian clerk did get the jump on all the rest. The responses that he has already received, as well as his findings, obligate Belgium's diplomatic echelon to take action to avoid being found guilty of violating the Geneva Convention (which also prohibits states from profiting from illegal activities such as transferring populations to the occupied territory of another country).

EC officials assume that Belgium will prefer not to wrestle with the contradiction between its obligation to international law and the trade agreement and its support for the Barak government. The officials expect Belgium to make an official report. Until then, in the face of stated and unstated intentions by a few elements in the EU to sweep the problem under the carpet, members of the European Parliament, non-governmental organizations and Mattin will continue to nag


"Europe colludes in Israeli trade scams" Guardian Newspaper, April 23 2001,7792,477171,00.html.

Europe is Israel's most valuable trading partner. Israel earns around $14bn (£9.7bn) a year from Europe - one-third of its total exports. Europe could use this influence towards achieving a just peace - if only the member countries agreed on a course of action.

Last week, France hinted at economic measures to show European disapproval of Israel's policies and EU foreign ministers may discuss it further when they meet in Brussels on May 14.

One option would be to cancel or suspend the trade agreement which, since 1975, has allowed Israeli goods to enter Europe on preferential terms. Any decision to do that would have to be unanimous and, on past form, there is no chance of it happening.

There is, however, an interesting alternative which does not require a political decision, merely an administrative decision of the kind that no reasonable person can disagree with: to clamp down on fraud.

One of the great unpublicised scandals of the EU is that Israel has been cheating on the trade agreement for years and depriving the EU of revenue in the process. It is known, for example, that Israel has imported Brazilian orange juice, labelled it as Israeli and sent it on to Europe - thus allowing the Brazilians to evade European taxes.

The preferential terms under the agreement apply to goods produced wholly or substantially in "the territory of the state of Israel". Europe has a similar agreement with the Palestinians, but by controlling exports from the occupied territories, the Israelis bar the Palestinians from making use of it.

Jars of Palestinian pickle, for instance, are handed over to the Israelis who stick a "Made in Israel" label on them and export them to Europe. Flowers grown by Palestinians in Gaza, strawberries, oranges, lemons and aubergines are all sent to Israel, mixed with Israeli produce and exported to Europe with Israeli certificates of origin.

In 1998 a Palestinian grower told the European commission that he allowed his flowers to change their nationality in order to avoid the risk of damage and delay "as a result of Israeli treatment of Palestinian produce". This was a polite way of referring to the Israeli authorities' practice of thrusting metal spikes through boxes of Palestinian flowers, rendering them unsaleable. Ostensibly this is done for security reasons.

Israeli companies import leather from Europe and pass it to Palestinian companies, who turn it into shoes and jackets. The Palestinians pass the goods back to the Israelis, who then send them to Europe as Israeli products. The point of this is that Israeli importers and exporters cream off a percentage that would otherwise have gone to Palestinians.

Another - politically more serious - fraud arises because produce from Jewish settlements in the occupied territories is not covered by trade agreements with Europe and is therefore not entitled to preferential treatment.

Europe has made its view of the settlements extremely clear. "Settlements change the physical character and demographic composition of the occupied territories. All settlement activities are illegal and constitute a major obstacle to peace," a statement from EU presidency said recently.

But what Europe says and does are two different things. By allowing settlement products to be imported under an Israeli guise, Europe helps to keep the settlements in business.

The more farsighted Israelis recognise this as an obstacle to peace. The Gush Shalom organisation, for example, urges Israelis themselve to boycott settlement produce, under the slogan, "A penny to the settlements is a penny against peace."

In some cases there is no attempt to disguise the origin of these products. The Golan Heights Winery exports 38% of all "Israeli" wine - from vineyards on occupied Syrian land. It markets them under the labels "Yarden", "Gamla", and "Golan", and the company's website lists distributors in nine European countries, including House of Hallgarten in Luton.

Ahava produces bath salts and cosmetics from the Dead sea on the occupied West Bank. Its website lists outlets in Belgium, Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom (including Selfridges in London). Other products would not be difficult to track down: a long list is published on Gush Shalom's website.

The EU has known about this for a long time but it held off taking action on the grounds that there was no point in making a fuss while peace seemed imminent. But in the last few months that has changed and peace seems further away than ever. Action now could help to get it back on course.



IHRC Alert: Selfridges are profiting from the Israeli Occupation

It has come to our attention that Selfridges are carrying a range of goods produced on Israel's illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. These are labeled "Made in Israel" in contravention of EU excise
and customs regulations. They include:

Achva Halva - Barkan Industrial Zone, West Bank
Ahava toiletries - Mitspe Shalem, West Bank
Beigal and Beigal pretzels - Barkan Industrial Zone, West Bank
Yarden Wines - Katzrin, Golan Heights

These settlements have been built on land expropriated from the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. Not only are they illegal under international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, but their
existence and continuing expansion, a symbol of the ongoing occupation, has been identified as a major obstacle to peace at this sensitive time.

The EU and international positions make it clear that settlements are not part of Israel, and therefore are not covered by any trade agreement. By stocking such products, Selfridges is in effect assisting
settlement expansion through subsidising the settler economy. Whilst settlement trade flourishes, Israel continues to strangle the Palestinian economy by denying it free access to the outside world.

The EU has knowingly ignored taking decisive action against Israel over this flouting of its own rules, so we are bringing this to the attention of the public.

The BIG campaign urges the public to boycott companies that sell Israeli goods until Israel ends its illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, abides by UN resolutions and obeys International law.

Please voice your concerns to Mr Vittorio Radice, Chief Executive of Selfridges, 400, Oxford St, London W1A 1AB.

His email address is: