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November 13, 2019 7:47 am

The EU Court Courts BDS

avatar by Yisrael Medad / JNS.org

Opinion

A pro-BDS demonstration. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgThe European Court of Justice has just published its interpretation of “the underlying rules concerning indication of origin in connection to the matter of labeling agricultural products” in response to the case brought by the Psagot Winery (a case that former Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked has now termed “stupidity”).

I already discussed some of the contradictions and inanities involved with the case. I even proposed a solution, to which I will return. But now that the judgment has been finalized, a second review is in order.

The main thrust of the judgment — despite all the denials and obfuscation by the European Union — is to enable a boycott of those wines as well as other grown, produced, and manufactured foodstuffs from the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, the Jordan Valley, and parts of Jerusalem:

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.

Veiled by a humanitarian concern for freedom of information and in taking a stand that there is illegality in the existence of the “settlements,” the European Union has redoubled its political efforts to wipe the heart of the Jewish homeland of Jews.

In claiming that there is a failure to indicate the country of origin which then “might mislead consumers into believing that that foodstuff has a country of origin or a place of provenance different from its true country of origin” the court itself makes a misleading claim.

After all, foodstuffs produced by Arabs in the same area, if labeled as “Palestine” (as, for example, the Taybeh Brewing Company does) would be quite misleading, as there is no country or state by that name. It is a geographical name of a region. In fact, it became “Palestine” in the modern era, sanctioned by international law, only because of Zionism, and the just goal of creating a Jewish national home.

Moreover, Israel legally maintains a belligerent occupation — that is, one whose origin is as a result of hostilities. The hostilities themselves — namely, the 1967 Six Day War — were of a defensive nature against aggression. As the court notes, the relevant regulation refers equally to a “territory” and a “state.” To label the wine as made in “Judea” or “Binyamin” or “Samaria” should suffice. Israel surely exercises its “full range of powers recognized by international law” in those territories.

Moreover, as the court notes:

It follows from the very wording of the Union Customs Code that that term [the concept of “country of origin”] refers to entities other than “countries” and, therefore, other than “States.”

It would logically follow from all that verbiage that labeling a bottle of Psagot wine or dates from the Jordan Valley as “Binyamin, State of Israel” or “Jordan Valley, State of Israel” is not misleading and falls within the geographic definition required. After all, the court, as I understand, agrees with this:

The indication that a foodstuff comes from an “Israeli settlement” located in one of the “territories occupied by the State of Israel” may be regarded as an indication of the “place of provenance,” provided that the term “settlement” refers to a specific geographical area.

But no, the court insists that its judgment is intended “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.” But Israel does exercise its legal sovereign power in being the legitimate occupier of those areas in accordance with international law. Occupation per se is not necessarily illegal.

In a third point, which I consider invidious, the court declared that it:

underlined that the settlements established in some of the territories occupied by the State of Israel 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.

But why should consumers need to know about a supposed “violation” of “humanitarian law”? I can only guess, despite EU protestations otherwise, that it wishes to point the consumers in the direction of a boycott. There can be no other reason. As the court makes explicit:

The provision of information to consumers must enable them to make informed choices, with regard not only to health, economic, environmental, and social considerations, but also to ethical considerations and considerations relating to the observance of international law. The Court underlined in that respect that such considerations could influence consumers’ purchasing decisions.

Quite clearly, they intend to educate consumers to take “ethical considerations” that can only lead to conclusions for the practice of a boycott. Moreover, the court’s reasoning is quite shaky.

I turned to and received this official response from the EU Spokesperson’s Office in Tel Aviv:

The EU does not support any form of boycott or sanctions against Israel. The EU rejects attempts by the campaigns of the so-called “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions” (BDS) movement to isolate Israel.

I beg to differ with that assertion.

NGO Monitor detailed on Tuesday the corrosive financial and political backdrop to the decision, which includes that fact that NGOs, as a stepping-stone to boycotts, pushed for labeling and, ironically, also receive large funds from these same EU governments. There is a lot more.

Of course, there is another way out.

Why not initiate direct marketing to Europe, which, I think, is already done on a small scale? Internet sales. It could be, facetiously but advantageously, marketed as “The Wine Banned By Brussels.” It would tell the consumer that the EU bureaucracy wants to prevent him or her from making quality purchases based on a political outlook. As a friend suggested, for Judea and Samaria-friendly people, “the EU wants you not to purchase this wine because they are made by Jews in places the EU forbids Jews to live.”

Jews are by right in Judea and Samaria. The League of Nations confirmed our historical connection to these territories. In the 1947 UN Partition Plan, the terms “Judea” and “Samaria” are employed. Jews were not in Judea and Samaria between 1948-1967 due to an un-humanitarian and illegal ethnic-cleansing operation conducted by Arabs between 1920 and 1948. Our presence there post-1967 is a result of Arab terror and aggression.

It is our right to be in Judea and Samaria, and to grow grapes and dates and everything else we can grow and produce and manufacture there. And we will continue to so do.

Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israel journalist and political commentator.

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