In the EU Court of Juqtice ruling, the 15 judges wrote that it was necessary to label Israeli settlement goods as such “to prevent consumers from being misled as to the fact that the State of Israel is present in the territories concerned as an occupying power and not as a sovereign entity.”
BRUSSELS—The Court of Justice of the European Union, which is the supreme court of the EU in matters of EU law, has ruled that Israeli goods produced over the pre-1967 lines must be marked as ‘’settlement products.”
The ruling makes the controversial issue of product labeling mandatory in all 28 EU member states. The words “made in a settlement” would have to be included on consumer labels for all products sold in the EU and produced in the West Bank settlements , east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
“Foodstuffs originating in the territories occupied by the State of Israel must bear the indication of their territory of origin, accompanied, where those foodstuffs come from an Israeli settlement within that territory, by the indication of that provenance,” the EU court said.
In the ruling, the 15 judges wrote that it was necessary to label Israeli settlement goods as such “to prevent consumers from being misled as to the fact that the State of Israel is present in the territories concerned as an occupying power and not as a sovereign entity.”
The court further stated that Israeli settlements “are characterized by the fact that they give concrete expression to a policy of population transfer conducted by that state outside its territory, in violation of the rules of general international humanitarian law.”
A label that merely stated “Made in the West Bank” was insufficient, the court said, because customers would not have a way of knowing that the product they are considering purchasing originated in a locality established “in breach of the rules of international humanitarian law.”
Israel has opposed such labeling, warning that it abets the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement and can be used as a tool to boycott Israel. Israel says such labelling is unfair and discriminatory. Other countries involved in territorial disputes are not similarly sanctioned, Jerusalem says.
The issue has led to tensions in the EU-Israel relations.
The EU said in response to the ruling, that “clear and non-misleading indication of origin is an essential part of the EU’s consumer policy.”
“The Court’s decision confirms, as said in the Commission’s interpretative notice of 2015, that the indication of origin of the products originating in Israeli settlements must be correct and not misleading for the consumer. The EU’s position regarding this issue did not change,” the EU said.
“The EU considers settlements and occupied territories illegal under international law,” European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said at the midday briefing, noting that the ruling does not affect products from Israel, which has a privileged trading relationship with the bloc in the framework of the Association Accord. She added that the ruling did not change the EU’s “fundamental support for the security of Israel”.
“The EU does not support any form of boycott or sanctions against Israel and the EU rejects attempts by the campaigns of the so-called Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement to isolate Israel,” Andreeva said.
The Psagot Winery, located in the Judean Hills, had brought the issue legally in 2016. It turned to France’s highest court, the Conseil d’Etat, to protest the country’s mandated settler product labeling. Last year the French court sought referred the matter to the EU Court.
A Brussels-based European Jewish group denounced the EU court quoting Israel for its “breach of the rules of international humanitarian law ‘’whilst Hamas and its acolytes are bombing innocent civilian populations in Israel. ‘’It is one of the most perverse ironies I have witnessed in quite some time,” said European Jewish Association (EJA) head Rabbi Menachem Margolin.
“The entire basis of the labelling policy is purely discriminatory against the world’s only Jewish state. Is any other country in the world with disputed territory subjected to such a blatantly one-sided policy? The answer is no,’’ he said.
He continued: “What is particularly galling is the message this sends to the Israeli public today. As shops, schools and businesses are forced to close because of the onslaught of massive indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza, as Israelis take shelter and border towns and villages steel themselves against the worst, the EU sends them a signal not of support or solidarity, but of punitive and needless labelling.’’
NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based group, said: “For years, the NGO network has pushed product labelling as a stepping stone for full-fledged BDS against Israel, particularly in Europe. They have taken another step in singling out Israel, through the decisions of the French government and the European Court of Justice.”
“NGO Monitor research shows that the NGOs responsible for promoting labeling, including in France, receive high levels of European government funds to lobby those same European governments,” it added.
”The ruling will likely be instrumentalized by those who seek to delegitimize the Jewish state, which is why it’s now more urgent than ever to deepen the mutually beneficial EU-Israel ties,” said Daniel Schwammenthal, Director of the AJC Transatlantic Institute, the Brussels-based EU Office of the American Jewish Committee.
“As supporters of a negotiated two-state solution, we believe that discriminatory labeling won’t help to advance peace. The weaponization of EU consumer protection law will complicate finding an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians, which can only succeed in the diplomatic – not the judicial – arena,” he added.