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Europe Slaps Discriminatory Labels on Israeli Products

It’s official: the European Union will be sending out guidelines to all 28 of its member states on how to label settlement products from Israel.

The move has been in the works for a while. In September the European Parliament voted 525-70 in favor of it. Israeli settlement products have been excluded from EU trade preferences since 2004.

This latest move, though, is something new.

Once it comes into effect, shoppers in any EU supermarket will see certain products labeled “Made in the West Bank” (Israeli settlement) or “Made in the Golan” (Israeli settlement).

They won’t see such labels on products from any other of the world’s 200 territories that are under dispute. Not, for example, Turkish products from Northern Cyprus. Not Chinese products from Tibet.

In some strange way, in a continent that has a long, unlovely history of subjecting Jews to boycotts and badges, it is only products from the Jewish state that are going to be specially marked.

Israel and some American allies have been urging the EU not to go through with the labeling. Their seemingly irrefutable arguments fall on deaf European ears.

A bipartisan letter signed by 36 senators, led by Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), stated:

As allies, elected representatives of the American people, and strong supporters of Israel, we urge you not to implement this labeling policy, which appears intended to discourage Europeans from purchasing these products and promote a de facto boycott of Israel, a key ally and the only true democracy in the Middle East.

 The letter went on to note that:

  • Such labeling could lead to a broader boycott of Israel and puts wind in the sails of the BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions) movement, whose aim is not to change Israel’s policies but to destroy it. Or as Israeli columnist Dan Margalit puts it: “Boycotting settlement products is only the first step. Europe is likely to crumble under pressure from the Palestinians and from the Muslims overrunning its streets, and it will inch its way toward an overall boycott of Israel.”
  • “At a time,” the senators say, “of significant instability in the region, it is deeply concerning to us that the EU is considering a proposal intended to impose more diplomatic and economic pressure on Israel.” These days, that “significant instability” includes daily knifing attacks of Israelis by Palestinians. With this move the EU not only boosts those other kinds of pressure on Israel but, once again, eggs on Palestinian terror.
  • The labeling “prejudge[s] the outcome of future negotiations.” If any and all Israeli presence in the post-1967 territories is illegitimate, then no future negotiations would stand any chance of success unless Israel sold the whole store in advance.

Senator Marco Rubio, for his part, points out further that the measure “stoke[s] European animosity toward Israel—which is already at disturbingly high levels,” “punishes Israel for Palestinian leaders’ repeated rejection of statehood offers and…ongoing refusal to negotiate,” and stands to harm not only Israelis economically but—actually more—Palestinians.

There are now about 14 Israeli industrial zones in the West Bank, and they employ 15,000 Palestinians who earn far more than they would in Palestinian Authority jobs. Hit West Bank products and you hit Palestinians. But Europe, seized by its latest single-out-the-Jews enthusiasm, marches blindly on nevertheless.

And in addition to all those excellent reasons to oppose the perverse EU move, there’s another one that somehow gets passed over. Israel captured the West Bank and the Golan (along with Sinai and Gaza, which it has already ceded) in a defensive war in 1967. The documents that were supposed to set the course for peace negotiations—UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) and the Israeli-Palestinian Oslo accords—in no way prohibit Israeli settlement-building.

It seems to jibe with common sense: if someone attacks you and you capture land from which he attacked, you’re not obligated to hold that land for him forever as a sort of sacred trust, in the hope of returning it to him. In other words, Israeli settlement-building, for security, economic, or religious-historical reasons, is thoroughly legitimate; the point of negotiations is to settle a dispute over land, not to hand all of it back to the side that attacked; and the labeling of settlement products is purely discriminatory and has no legal or moral basis.

This latest European move should not only be alarming to Israelis. Europe is still—some would say just barely—part of Western civilization, and a Europe that increasingly knuckles under to Muslim pressures and hatreds does not augur well for that civilization.