Denmark to ban labeling West Bank products as ‘Made in Israel’, report says

Report comes after South Africa says only recognizes State of Israel within borders demarcated by UN in 1948; move is in line with U.K. recommendation from 2009.


Denmark is planning to ban labeling products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank as “Made in Israel,” the foreign minister told Danish media on Saturday. The move follows reports of similar plans announced this month by South Africa’s government.

“This is a step that clearly shows consumers that the products are produced under conditions that not only the Danish government, but also European governments, do not approve of,” Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal Søvndal told Politiken newspaper. “It will then be up to consumers whether they choose to buy the products or not.

Boycott - AP - May 2012

A Palestinian man throw a product from Jewish settlements in a fire in the West Bank village of Salfit - Photo by AP

A source in Brussels familiar with the matter told Haaretz that it is still unclear whether the move is a recommendation or a new directive.

In late 2009, the U.K. government recommended West Bank products be labeled separately.

Earlier this month, South Africa’s Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies said that the government is planning to ban marketing products made in Israeli settlements in the West Bank with the label, “Made in Israel.”

The move comes as a result of a year and a half of activity by Open Shuhada Street, Attorneys for Human Rights and BDS South Africa, together with the Palestinian Popular Struggle coordination committee.

Davies, who is of Jewish descent, wrote in his official announcement that “consumers in South Africa should not be misled into believing that products originating in the (occupied Palestinian trritories) are products originating from Israel.” He added that “the government of South Africa recognizes the State of Israel only within the borders demarcated by the UN in 1948.”

Israel will try in the coming months to cancel the decision. According to the South African law, the fact that the decision is a government directive and not a law passed in parliament means that citizens can lodge objections with 60 days.

“Pro-Israel groups are organizing in South Africa in order to present objections in an orderly manner to try to cancel the directive or change it,” an official in Israel’s Foreign Ministry told Haaretz on Saturday.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor said that the South African ambassador will be called in for a reprimand on Sunday. He said Israel is being targeted on a purely political basis. “This step has racist characteristics,” he said. “The South African government does not explain… what is considered a settlement product.” He added that contrary to clear criteria on the matter in EU countries, the new decision “will hurt Israeli produce in general.”

Tension between Israel and South Africa began earlier this week, when a regional agriculture minister decided in the last minute not to attend the “Agritech” conference in Tel Aviv, after he was asked by South Africa’s Foreign Minister not to fly to Israel. Avi Granot, head of the Africa Division in Israel’s Foreign Ministry, held a tense conversation on the matter with the South African ambassador.

The attempts to limit the export of settlement produce to Europe were led in the past by the European Union and the British government. In 2009, the British government, at the express instructions of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, issued guidelines to retailers on clear labeling of produce made in settlements, differentiating it from Palestinian produce and products that were made within the Green Line. These guidelines followed Israeli refusals to label settlement products before being exported to the EU. The issue of labeling settlement produce was a major bone of contention between the British and Israeli governments at the time.

In recent years, the BDS movement has targeted companies such as Agrexco, an export cooperative that serves thousands of farmers, kibbutzim and small agricultural companies in Israel that has continued to export settlement produce.

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By Amira Hass, Barak Ravid and Anshel Pfeffer