Made in Israel? Not a simple question (AP) Associated Press) By JOSEF FEDERMAN JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 05/31/12 6:45 pm ET)
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JERUSALEM – For decades, Israel has marketed an array of cosmetics
and food products manufactured in the occupied West Bank as "Made in
Israel," blurring their true origins in Jewish settlements opposed by
virtually the entire international community.
Now that practice is being challenged with demands that products made
in the settlements be labeled accordingly.
Recent criticism, coming most prominently from South Africa, is
putting Israel in a bind over the muddle it has created in the West
Bank: Despite 45 years of control and a massive and costly effort to
settle it with Jews, Israel has never annexed the territory — and the
Palestinians claim it for a future state.
The limbo yields some bewildering results, such as Jewish settlers
casting ballots in home communities not in Israel proper despite
there being no provision for absentee voting.
Asked to explain the "Made in Israel" label for products made outside
Israeli territory, Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor reached
for an unorthodox defense, arguing that it is not intended as a
"My point is not the sovereignty over the West Bank, but who is the
authority that has supervised the product," Palmor told The
Associated Press. "Since the products of the settlements are made
under Israeli regulations and standards, they are ´made in Israel.´"
He said there were other cases of contestable labeling, including by
the Palestinians who label products from parts of the West Bank
governed by the Palestinian Authority as "Made in Palestine." There
is formally no state of Palestine, he noted.
The Palestinians have long called for a boycott of goods made in
Israeli settlements and even have lit bonfires to destroy them.
"We are calling for boycotting the Israeli products simply because
the Israelis shouldn´t benefit from occupying our land and our
people," said boycott activist Murad Sudani, who heads the
Palestinian Writers Union.
Several weeks ago, South Africa issued a notice saying it wants to
require merchants "not to incorrectly label products that originate
from the Occupied Palestinian Territory as products of Israel." It
said consumers should not be "misled" that the products originated in
The notice did not specify what the label should say, saying "the
burden for proving where the products originate will lie with
traders." The proposal has not taken effect, pending a 60-day period
for public objections that can be submitted by the end of June. South
Africa is not a major market for Israel.
Nonetheless, the voice of the South African government could be a
symbolic boost to the Palestinians, given the country´s history of
overcoming apartheid and its leading role in the developing world. It
would become the first country to require distinct labeling of
Others have begun to move in the same direction.
Danish authorities said this week they would soon introduce labeling
guidelines for settlement products. Erik Jepsen, spokesman for the
Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, said Thursday that the
rules would be mandatory for fruit and vegetables and voluntary for
Danish Foreign Minister Villy Soevndal said the government wants to
raise awareness about the settlements, which the EU considers a major
obstacle to Mideast peace.
The move follows a British decision in 2009 to allow retailers to
distinguish whether West Bank goods are produced by Palestinians or
Israeli settlers. It was not clear if there were cases in which this
This week, Swiss supermarket chain Migros said it would tell its
customers if products come from the settlements. The chain said it
opposes calls to boycott Israeli products but wanted to offer
customers greater transparency. Previously, it identified products as
coming from Israel.
In perhaps the strongest international stance against the
settlements, the European Union has excluded settlement goods from
duty-free status given to other Israeli imports.
Yigal Dilmoni, a settler leader, said the criticism is unfair. "All
the communities in Judea and Samaria are part of the state of
Israel," he said, using the biblical terms for the West Bank. "So of
course these products are made in Israel."
Settlement products account for less than 1 percent of Israel´s
exports of some $50 billion a year, according to the Manufacturers´
Association of Israel.
Dead Sea cosmetics, high-end wines and dates are some of the products
produced in the West Bank. Many of the businesses employ Palestinian
"We think that politics and economics shouldn´t be mixed up. There is
good economic cooperation with the Palestinians," said Dan Catarivas,
director of the Manufacturers´ Association´s Division of Foreign
Trade and International Relations.
Palmor said Israel is being unfairly singled out, claiming goods from
other conflict zones don´t face similar scrutiny. Morocco, for
example, exports tomatoes from the disputed Western Sahara with
a "Morocco" label.
The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and neighboring east
Jerusalem as parts of a future state. Israel captured the two areas
in the 1967 Mideast war.
Although Israel has annexed east Jerusalem, the international
community considers both territories to be occupied and opposes the
presence of the 500,000 Jews living in the two areas.
Peace talks have been stalled for more than three years, with the
Palestinians refusing to restart negotiations until Israel stops all
construction in the settlements. Israel says peace talks should
resume without any preconditions. (© 2012 The Associated Press
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